DeKalb County prosecutors on Tuesday declared they will pursue the most recent public-corruption indictment against suspended CEO Burrell Ellis, but stopped short of moving to dismiss the first indictment they obtained against him last year.
If the first indictment is dismissed, Ellis could be immediately reinstated to his former position as CEO, inadvertently triggering instability in the county government, Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Hill wrote in Tuesday’s motion. Prosecutors said that while Georgia law is unclear whether Ellis would be automatically reinstated if the first indictment were to be dismissed, it is possible the law could be interpreted this way.
That would place Ellis “in an authoritative role over numerous witnesses for the state that include subordinate county employees and vendors doing business or seeking to do business with the county,” the motion said. It could also “hinder the effective and fair prosecution of the case.”
Ellis was first indicted June 18 on allegations he shook down county vendors for campaign cash and punished those who did not give.
Weeks later, a three-member panel unanimously recommended that Ellis be suspended from office while he fights the felony charges. On July 16, Gov. Nathan Deal followed that recommendation, issuing an executive order suspending Ellis as CEO. Ellis was replaced by interim CEO Lee May.
On Jan. 16, a DeKalb grand jury issued a new 14-count indictment against Ellis that included new charges of perjury, bribery and conspiracy.
Last Friday, toward the close of contentious pretrial hearings, Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson directed prosecutors to decide within five days whether to dismiss either the first or the second indictment to streamline the case going forward.
On Tuesday, Hill asked Johnson to allow the first indictment to be placed on the court’s “dead docket,” which is akin to putting the case in a state of dormancy, instead of having prosecutors move to dismiss it. Hill said she was making the request out of an abundance of caution.
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