Judge issues order to stop jurors from getting hearing over special grand jury

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:

DECATUR, Ga. - A superior court judge under fire by a special grand jury issued an order Thursday, trying to keep them from getting a hearing.

The grand jurors who spent a year investigating public corruption in DeKalb County are slated to go before another judge Friday.

They want him to order Judge Mark Anthony Scott to dismiss them and release their report to the public, not to the defense team for county CEO for Burrell Ellis.

Ellis wants an advance copy to argue that parts of it should be eliminated before the report is made public.

Thursday, Scott ordered the grand jury and attorneys to stop filing motions while a separate action is pending at the court of appeals.

So far, Friday's hearing is still scheduled as planned.

The grand jurors' yearlong term of service was supposed to end in January when they gave Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott their 81-page report. But he's yet to dismiss them or make that report public.

Last week, the district attorney, on behalf of the grand jury, filed a petition for mandamus, which will be heard by Judge Daniel Coursey, one of Scott's colleagues.

"We read the statute, and it's clear. You will be dismissed after one year, you have no authority over a year," grand jury foreman Albert Trujillo told investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer earlier this month.

Scott has defended his decision to hold off on dismissing the grand jury and releasing its report to the public.

Instead, he ruled he would give attorneys for DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis and his adviser and former campaign manager, Kevin Ross, advance copies of the report.

They want to argue that the judge should strike portions of it from the record before the public sees it, saying the grand jury operated outside the scope of what it was originally tasked to do.

Prosecutors are currently fighting Scott's decision in the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Trujillo said the 23 members of the grand jury will be disappointed if the public doesn't get to see the whole report.

"There was not a single person there who didn't put their heart and soul and a lot of effort into it," said Trujillo. He declined to discuss the report's contents.

The special-purpose grand jury was originally convened to investigate allegations of corruption in the county's watershed department, but expanded to include other contracts and public officials.

In January, district attorney's investigators executed search warrants at the homes and offices of Ellis and Ross.

Those warrants were part of a simultaneous criminal investigation.

In Wednesday's filings, titled "Special Purpose Grand Jury v. Judge Mark Anthony Scott," the grand jury asks for another judge to force Scott to take a required vote of all of the superior court judges, dismiss the grand jurors immediately and release the report in its entirety.

They've also asked for an injunction to keep Scott from releasing the report to the defense team in the meantime.

The case that's before the Court of Appeals has been challenged by the defense team for Ellis and Ross. They want it dismissed, saying prosecutors did not follow proper procedure when filing it.

The new case filed by the grand jury would also give prosecutors a Plan B to get to Georgia's Supreme Court, if the Court of Appeals doesn't rule in their favor.

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