Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis spoke out on Thursday for the first time since he was convicted a year and a half ago following a second trial in DeKalb County.
This is after the State Supreme Court reversed Ellis' corruption convictions. He is accused of pressuring vendors for campaign contributions.
Ellis thanked his supporters, family and legal team during the “unimaginably horrific journey.”
“Through this experience, my family and I have been strengthened as we have walked through the valley of the shadow of death,” Ellis said. “We have been inspired by the stories of his elect, men and women who over the course of time who have endured hardship and yet have remained faithful and been upheld by God’s righteous right hand.”
Ellis’ lead defense attorney, Craig Gillen, said he's hopeful the case will come to an end soon.
“We are very, very pleased with the Supreme Court opinion, particularly happy that every single Georgia Supreme Court Justice agreed we did not get a fair trial and that the convictions should be reversed," Gillen said. “This reversal in the Supreme Court does not necessarily end the case. The case will come back to DeKalb County, and we hope and we pray that the end of the case will be very soon and we can finally put all of this behind us.”
Incoming DeKalb district attorney Sherry Boston must now decide whether to try him a third time for extortion and perjury.
Boston said she won't comment about a possible third trial until she takes office next year. But during her campaign for the job, at a Leadership DeKalb candidates' forum in May, Boston sharply criticized incumbent District Attorney Robert James for trying Ellis a second time.
“I think, like many others in the community, question whether trying a case a second time was in the best interest of the county,” Boston said. “You need to have a DA that’s willing to make that decision and justify that the expense associated with something like that was worth the outcome.”
Boston defeated James in the May Democratic primary.
The first time prosecutors filed charges in the fall of 2014, the case ended in a mistrial. Now, last year's conviction in the second trial has been thrown out, but the charges against Ellis remain.
Justice Harold Melton wrote in the unanimous opinion that the evidence was sufficient to convict Ellis, but that the convictions had to be reversed because of technical errors by the judge and prosecution during his trial.
Ellis was found guilty in July 2015 of perjury and attempted theft by extortion and was sentenced to serve 18 months of a five-year sentence in prison. He was released early in March after serving about eight months.
Both sides in the case have until Dec. 5 to file a motion for consideration of the court's ruling.