Judge tries to halt hearing in DeKalb grand jury case

The judge overseeing a special grand jury investigating possible corruption in DeKalb County ordered all parties to hit the pause button Thursday – a day before he was to be sued in the case.

The foreman of the special grand jury filed a petition earlier this month, asking that Judge Mark Anthony Scott be forced to turn over the jury’s 81-page report for review by other judges. If those judges have no questions, the report would be made public.

Scott held off on passing the report along and dismissing the 23 jurors last month, when he ruled that attorneys for DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis and his former campaign manager, attorney Kevin Ross, could review the document before it became public

District Attorney Robert James appealed that action, and the matter remains before the state Court of Appeals.

Scott issued an order Thursday claiming that the hearing regarding the lawsuit against him, and the jury’s request for an injunction to stop him from releasing an advance copy of the report, should be delayed until the appeals court rules.

An injunction would keep the report sealed if the appeals court dismisses the DA’s appeal. The case would then head to the state Supreme Court.

“He’s saying, ‘Everyone stand down and let the Court of Appeals make its decision,’” said criminal defense attorney Steve Sadow, who is not involved in the case. “It’s up to the judge if he agrees or not.”

Thursday afternoon, a secretary in Judge Daniel Coursey’s office said that the hearing on the petitions against Scott remained on the calendar.

Members of the grand jury had hoped the hearing would force action on their year-long investigation that has been in a holding pattern for months.

The delays stem from requests by Ellis and Ross to see if they are named in the report. Their attorneys argue they should be able to propose redactions if the report includes extraneous and embarrassing information about the two men. They also contend that search warrants served at their homes and office indicate the grand jury went beyond its original scope.

In January, agents from James’ office searched Ellis’ and Ross’ homes and office, seizing documents and computer equipment as part of a search for evidence of political corruption.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation showed that nearly $20,000 of contributions to Ellis came from, and more than $4 million in government contracts were awarded to, businesses named in the search warrants.

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