DECATUR, Ga. — Former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis faces up to 15 years in prison after he was found guilty of attempted extortion and perjury related to shaking down county contractors for campaign congributions.
The jury unanimously found Ellis guilty on the one extortion and three perjury charges related to allegations that he shook down county contractors to contribute to his 2012 campaign contributions, which he won convincingly. This was Ellis’ second trial after a jury last year failed to reach an agreement on any of the charges against him.
The case against Ellis depended on secret recordings made by the former head of DeKalb’s purchasing and contracts, Kelvin Walton. Walton agreed to wear a wire so he would not be charged with lying to a special purpose grand jury when he was asked if he got gifts or services from county vendors.
The maximum sentence for the three perjury counts is 10 years in prison, while the attempt to commit theft by extortion count carries a five-year maximum sentence.
Ellis has a promising political career as he won election over the 700,000-person county in 2008 and then convincingly won a second term four years later.
The extortion count involved accusations that Ellis shook down Power and Energy Services, which serviced generators for the county. Jurors heard a recording in which Ellis solicited contributions from Brandon Cummings, the president of the company.
“If I’ve got to sit down and explain to you why you would want to support this county government … ” Ellis said on the recording. “You obviously have an interest in DeKalb County … I’m not asking you to make a charitable contribution. I’m asking you to make a campaign contribution.”
The three perjury charges dealt with Ellis’ testimony to a special grand jury, when he said under oath that he doesn’t get involved in county contracting.
(Arrest photo: Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office)