Former DeKalb prosecutor says county is in trouble

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

A former DeKalb County prosecutor says she left a county that is in trouble.

She points to several public corruption cases involving school and county leaders.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne spoke to her exclusively about her decision to leave the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.

“I can say that DeKalb County absolutely can benefit from some new leadership,” said Kellie Hill. “I hope that what I was did while I was there played a role in the changes that need to occur in that county.”

Hill says her comments on the big picture in DeKalb County government are based on what she learned in the government job she held until July – chief of the trial division for the DeKalb district attorney. She says her comments are especially based on what she learned overseeing corruption cases.

Those cases include the DeKalb schools racketeering case and the corruption indictment of suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, who maintains his innocence of that one.

“While I regret not being able to see it through, I have no doubt that the office will be fine,” Hill said.

She says she respects the DeKalb district attorney Robert James, but after 20 years as a prosecutor, left to become managing attorney of the Chesnut Firm, which handles civil cases. She says her decision required serious prayer and deliberation.

“A rare talent; I don’t know how or why she's here, but we're certainly lucky to have her,” said Chestnut Firm CEO Chris Chestnut.

“This was an opportunity that I couldn't pass,” Hill said.

One of Ellis' lawyers, John Petrey, said because of a judge's order he can’t comment on Hill’s remarks about DeKalb, but can talk about facing her in two other high-profile cases.

“As a citizen, she's exactly what I wanted as a chief assistant district attorney. As a defense attorney, I wish she wasn’t so good,” Petrey said.

Hill confirmed she's the one who recommended dropping the murder case against Andrea Sneiderman, but pursuing the perjury charges she was convicted on. And that she recommended dropping former school superintendent Crawford Lewis’s racketeering case to a misdemeanor.

“Always being led by fairness and justice,” she said.

She says she will maintain those ethics, bringing lawsuits in her new position.

James says he has no hard feelings towards his former employee and he wishes her well.

“Kellie Hill has a reputation as one of the most prolific prosecutors in the state of Georgia. The contributions Kellie made to my office could never simply be summed up by wins in the courtroom," he said. "Her leadership, insight and approach are respected across the board by both fellow prosecutors and defense attorneys. She has a resume that is unmatched by most and a unique depth of legal knowledge to handle the most complex cases. Though we are all sad to see her go, we wish her well in her future endeavors. As always, we will continue to work for the citizens of DeKalb County.”