More legal fireworks in DeKalb grand jury probe

The ongoing legal battle between DeKalb County prosecutors and defense lawyers for CEO Burrell Ellis and his former campaign manager has grown even more contentious.

So far, lawyers for Ellis and consultant Kevin Ross have asked for sanctions against the District Attorney’s Office for alleged misconduct. In turn, the DA’s Office has asked for the defense lawyers representing Ellis and Ross to be held in contempt.

On Wednesday, the defense team called the prosecution’s contempt motion retaliatory and “wholly specious.” The motion is so groundless and frivolous, defense attorneys should be awarded reasonable legal fees for the time they took preparing the response, their filing said.

The high-stakes dispute stems from attempts by Ellis and Ross to view a special purpose grand jury’s presentment — the grand jury’s findings and recommendations — before it is made public. Investigators have searched both men’s offices and homes looking for evidence of corruption, warrants said. Ellis and Ross, who have not been charged, have denied any wrongdoing.

The grand jury’s presentment remains under seal. The panel looked into possible corruption in county water and sewer contracts.

DeKalb Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott recently issued an order allowing Ellis’ and Ross’ lawyers to view the presentment so they can ask for any inappropriate passages to be redacted before the report is published or, if necessary, seek to suppress the presentment in its entirety. The DA’s Office is appealing that to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

During a Feb. 5 hearing on the matter, J. Tom Morgan, one of Ellis’ lawyers, made “intentional, willful and material factual and legal misrepresentations” to Scott, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Leonora Grant said in the contempt motion.

The misrepresentations were made to gain unfair advantage, said the motion, which did not specify what alleged misrepresentations Morgan made. Because Morgan was speaking on behalf of both defense teams, all six defense attorneys should be held in contempt, the motion said.

The response filed Wednesday by the four lawyers for Ellis and the two attorneys for Ross said Grant failed to specify what alleged misrepresentation Morgan made. It also noted that no prosecutor at the Feb. 5 hearing accused Morgan of making a misleading argument.

“The state has made serious allegations of misconduct against members of the bar, but has failed entirely to cite to any evidence supporting the allegations made in its motion,” the response said. “…The state’s vague allegations are baseless and completely fail to satisfy the particularity requirements for contempt.”

Morgan declined to comment Thursday. The DA’s Office also has no comment, a spokesman said.

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