Retrial begins for DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis - CBS46 News

Retrial begins for DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis

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DEKALB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) - Testimony began Tuesday in the retrial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.

Ellis is accused of shaking down vendors who had contracts with the county, or bids for contracts, for personal campaign contributions during his reelection bid in 2012.  

Ellis was brought up on trial in October for allegations of extortion and perjury, but the trial ended in a hung jury.  

In court Tuesday, prosecutor Lawanda Hodges laid out her case for the jury during opening arguments. She told them this case is about “debt, desperation and deceit.”

Hodges painted a picture of a desperate Ellis who racked up significant debt during the primary race, despite running unopposed in the general election. 

“You will learn that it took him about one million dollars to run that campaign,” explains Hodges.  

Ellis is accused of harassing contractors during phone calls and private meetings. Hodges said he solicited donations of up to $2500. In some cases, Ellis allegedly threatened to punish vendors by rejecting contracts if they didn't give.  

When a special grand jury convened to investigate, prosecutors say Ellis lied about it all under oath.  

However, the defense will argue Ellis committed no crimes. 

“He called folks and asked them for campaign contributions, and there is not a single thing wrong with that,” attorney Craig Gillen told the jury during his opening statements.  

Gillen called all the allegations against his client false or simple misunderstandings and he said there is no evidence of kickbacks. 

“Not one thin dime went into Burrell Ellis's pocket that wasn't supposed to be there. Not a single, solitary dime,” said Gillen.

Testimony is expected to last two weeks. Ellis is still technically the CEO and has been collecting a paycheck since being suspended two years ago. If he's acquitted, Ellis could be reinstated to his seat. 

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