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DeKalb CEO Ellis grateful for legal victory

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, who twice faced trial on the same extortion charges, said Thursday the Georgia’s Supreme Court’s decision to overturn his conviction is a victory “for all of God’s children who thirst for justice.”

Ellis, speaking publicly for the first time since a jury found him guilty of attempted extortion in July 2015, thanked God, his attorneys, family and friends who stood by him.

Ellis, 59, served his eight-month prison sentence while his appeal was pending. He’s been suspended from office since he was indicted in July 2013.

Appearing alongside his wife Philippa, Ellis quoted scripture and credited his faith for sustaining him.

“It’s a victory for those who long for the fulfillment of the prophesy that justice might roll down like water and righteousness like and ever-flowing stream,” Ellis said as he read from prepared remarks. “I give glory to God for sustaining me through an unimaginably horrific journey.”

The state’s highest court on Wednesday threw out Ellis’ felony convictions for attempted extortion and perjury. He was accused of trying to shake down a contractor for campaign contributions and lying to a special grand jury.

“I am grateful to live in a country that was founded upon fundamental beliefs and protection of civil liberties and trust in God,” Ellis said. “We have been strengthened by God’s presence as we have walked through the valley of the shadow of death.”

The court ruled that Ellis didn’t receive a fair trial, in part because a judge prohibited testimony from county contractors who didn’t feel pressured to make political donations.

The charges against Ellis haven’t been dismissed, and incoming DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston will have to decide whether to take the case to trial a third time.

Ellis’ first case ended in a mistrial when a jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict in October 2014.

“We are very very pleased with the Supreme Court opinion,” said Craig Gillen, who is Ellis’ lead defense attorney. “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.”

Ellis, a real estate attorney, didn’t take questions or speak about his future.

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