Ellis trial could begin in August

Indicted DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis could face trial by the end of summer under a request filed Thursday afternoon by the county’s district attorney.

Ellis, who is facing 15 charges of theft, extortion and conspiracy, was scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday in an arraignment, or formal reading of those charges.

But Ellis waived that hearing Thursday, his attorney J. Tom Morgan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

At the same time, DA Robert James filed a motion asking Superior Court Judge Courtney L. Johnson to schedule Ellis’ trial for August.

“We’ve just put it officially on the record to move forward quickly,” said James’ spokesman Erik Burton. “We stand ready for trial.”

Morgan declined to say if Ellis’ legal team also wants to try the case next month. He referred that question to lead attorney Craig Gillen, who was unavailable for comment.

Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Ellis as CEO last week, naming Commissioner Lee May as interim head of the county.

Ellis’ team has argued that state law requires a trial to begin within two court terms or Ellis can petition for his job back.

If a judge agrees the two terms, roughly four months, began with the June indictment, the trial would need to begin by Aug. 30. If a judge rules the clock starts after arraignment, it could push a trial to the year’s end.

The 17-page indictment lists several witnesses expected to testify against Ellis. He is accused of ordering county staff to compile a list of firms that do work with the county to call for campaign donations and also threatening those companies that declined to give.

Such a trial is expected to last several days, according to legal watchers. It will be up to Johnson to review her court calendar and schedule when the Ellis trial can begin.

Johnson’s staff attorney and calendar clerk could not be reached for comment Thursday.