Fireworks erupt in court over DeKalb corruption case

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:

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DECATUR, Ga. - Fireworks erupted in a DeKalb County courtroom Wednesday during a hearing tied to the case surrounding the county's top leader.

Only Channel 2's Jodie Fleischer was there as a judge lashed out at prosecutors who want the public to see a secret corruption report.

The special grand jury investigating DeKalb County corruption released its report to the judge more than a month ago. So far, he has refused to release that report.

Fleischer has been reporting on closed hearings and sealed documents for weeks now, but Wednesday was the first time the judge let her into court.

The hearing was hostile and fiery and the arguing went on for more than an hour.

County CEO Burrell Ellis was not there, but his access to the report is what they're all fighting about.

"Mr. Ellis has no privacy interest. Absolutely none," said prosecutor Lee Grant. "The funny thing about this, will you listen to me please judge? The funny thing about this is they don't even know if they're in the report."

As Grant tried to make sure the public gets to see everything she's filed with regard to the special grand jury, Judge Mark Anthony Scott wanted to rein her in.

"I'm real close to thinking your conduct may be contemptuous, 'cause it goes beyond the making of an argument but it sounds like an attack on Judge Scott," Scott said. "Now I'm telling your boss if I have to call you down again, I'm going to hold him in contempt."

The judge did eventually agree to unseal all of the motions filed in this case.

"I believe we should be transparent, so that the public has confidence in what we do at all times. I don't think we have anything to hide from the public," Scott said.

But the grand jury's actual report still remains secret, as defense teams for Ellis and his former campaign manager, Kevin Ross, fight to get to read it first.

"In our view, this grand jury has been hijacked by the district attorney's office," said Craig Gillen, Ellis' defense attorney.

They want to strike portions they said are beyond the grand jury's corruption scope.

"There is a very serious question that would be raised as to whether evidence that was gathered by the civil grand jury for criminal purposes could be used legally against our clients," said Ross's defense attorney, Seth Kirschenbaum.

In the audience, four of the special grand jurors looked on, hoping the public gets to see their work.

"How disappointed will you be if none of it sees the light of day?" Fleischer asked jury foreman Albert Trujillo.

"I can tell you, it's going to be disappointing," he replied.

Trujillo said he still has faith in the system.

"I was very encouraged by the district attorney's office and the fact that they showed a lot of passion for the process and what has happened," Trujillo said.

The Court of Appeals will decide whether the judge can give the defense teams an advance copy of that report.

Fleischer learned a criminal case is already moving forward at the same time, which the judge said has even caused him confusion over all of this.

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