Fallout could be explosive if motions prove true in Ellis corruption case

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Experts told Channel 2 Action News the fallout from explosive allegations made in the corruption case against an ousted metro county leader could have major legal and political consequences.

The key to everything is the credibility of the witness, suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, who defense team quotes in their motion to disqualify DA Robert James from trying this case.

If a judge believes that witness, experts say the impact on the Ellis case and James himself could be devastating.

"The allegations are certainly mind blowing," said law professor Jessica Gable from the Georgia State University School of Law. "If even one of those things happens to be true then the case itself in the DeKalb DA's office is pretty much dismantled."

Ellis' lawyers want James off the case and the charges dismissed, claiming they've got a witness who will testify to the DA's "numerous, gross abuses of power and individual rights."

The documents also state that James was leading an "…unrestrained witch hunt," and that James broke the law while building his case by conspiring with interim DeKalb CEO and former County Commission Chairman Lee May to secure funding for expensive surveillance equipment.

The motion says a DA informant used the equipment "to take video and audio recordings of CEO Ellis without CEO Ellis' knowledge or consent ... in violation of Georgia's Unlawful Surveillance and Eavesdropping Act."

"Given the seriousness of these allegations, certainly the district attorney's office is going to be very worried about this and the district attorney in particular, because it is a very personalized allegation against him," Gable said.

Political analyst Bill Crane says should any of the allegations against James prove to be true, "He is considered one of the bright shining stars in DeKalb and there really aren't that many in the political sphere, so this could cripple those efforts and plans by him for future office."

On Friday Ellis' lawyers filed another motion claiming the indictment should be thrown out because prosecutors didn't follow proper procedures.

A judge is scheduled to sort all this out at a hearing later this month.