You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

How Sherry Boston won DeKalb’s DA race

By casting District Attorney Robert James as part of DeKalb’s problems, Solicitor Sherry Boston was able to win a resounding victory Tuesday and replace him as the county’s top prosecutor.

Boston doubted James’ ability to eliminate corruption and questioned his personal integrity, citing missteps with his official spending, dealings with investigators and campaign finance filings. As a high-ranking incumbent running for re-election, he bore the brunt of voter angst over a county government stained by years of criminal behavior and dubious decisions.

Boston’s pitch to voters — that DeKalb needed a prosecutor they could believe in — worked. She unseated James, receiving 62 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, and she’ll become the county’s next district attorney because no Republican is running in November’s general election.

”As the top law enforcement officer in the county, you have to be above reproach,” Boston said Wednesday. “The people of DeKalb are committed to changing the face of this county, and they want to hold all of their leaders accountable to the highest standards.”

James has said he was honest and aggressive, following the evidence where it led, but he wouldn’t bring charges unless they were justified.

Boston turned James’ perceived strengths against him.

James secured the conviction of DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis last year, but it took two trials and enabled Boston to question why other corruption allegations didn’t result in charges.

In another example, James said he took the “high road” by reimbursing $1,915 in public money he claimed for business travel expenses, though that opened the door for Boston to doubt his credibility to investigate other government officials for their spending.

She further dinged him for agreeing to pay $2,850 in fines for failing to file a campaign fundraising report and other required financial disclosures on time.

“The district attorney has to be a paragon of virtue in that position,” said Bob Wilson, who supported Boston’s candidacy and served as DeKalb’s district attorney from 1981 to 1992. “There was a sense that he wasn’t playing quite right with the way he was handling public funds, and that he wasn’t handling his political funds correctly.”

James countered during the campaign that he had fought to rid the county of corruption, not just with Ellis, but also through the convictions of former DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis and about 40 other government employees.

In addition, he cited prosecutions of murderers, human traffickers and more than 160 gang members.

“Despite the outcome, I remain committed to serving the citizens of DeKalb, enforcing the laws of this state and protecting DeKalb residents, visitors and businesses alike from those who would harm them until such time as I am no longer district attorney of this county,” James said in a statement Wednesday.

But running on his record fell far short with DeKalb voters.

“I was looking for someone different – someone new and real, with integrity,” said Ivory Reaves after voting at Peace Baptist Church. “Robert James hasn’t done a good job, and there are suspicions hanging over his head.”

Another voter who said he was falsely accused by the district attorney’s office, Adrian Spellen, argued that DeKalb needs a prosecutor who’s fair. Spellen was found not guilty of child molestation in 2013.

“I’ve seen the corruption,” Spellen said after voting at Martin Luther King Jr. High. “I want to see the district attorney’s office run differently and with professionalism.”

James accumulated an impressive number of successful prosecutions, but that didn’t matter to voters, said Mawuli Mel Davis, a defense attorney whose law partner donated to both candidates.

“She went in on a restore confidence platform, and that became the overarching issue,” Davis said. “And she had broad endorsements across the political spectrum you don’t typically see,” citing support from former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson.

When residents saw James prosecute Ellis, they thought he was making a political power play, said Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, who backed Boston.

James sought charges against Ellis, but some wondered why he didn’t pursue others named in a special grand jury report or commissioners accused of misspending government money.

Ellis was accused of trying to shake down contractors for campaign contributions, and a jury found him guilty of attempted extortion and perjury in a second trial after his initial trial ended in a hung jury.

“People felt that Robert James was uniquely situated to go after a lot of people for wrongdoing, and he did not, or he wasted time going after Ellis, trying to elevate himself,” Parent said. “Voters in DeKalb want to see our government move in a different direction.”

James, who has served as the county’s district attorney since 2010, was once viewed as a rising star with the potential to someday run for higher office. Now his political future is unclear.

He will remain in the district attorney’s job through the end of the year, when Boston will take over.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

A guide to the 6th Congressional District race
A guide to the 6th Congressional District race

The nationally watched race to represent the 6th Congressional District, which stretches from east Cobb County across north Fulton County to north DeKalb County, will be decided June 20 in a runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. The seat opened when Tom Price vacated it to become President Donald Trump’s secretary of...
Super PAC offering free rides to Georgia’s 6th District voters
Super PAC offering free rides to Georgia’s 6th District voters

Voters in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District who need a ride to the polls can get one for free thanks to a super PAC raising thousands of dollars to make sure locals get a chance to vote. The push from My Ride to Vote to get 6th District voters to the polls for free is coming after a similar national effort last year for the presidential election...
Georgia would be vulnerable if feds made deep cuts
Georgia would be vulnerable if feds made deep cuts

While President Donald Trump’s budget plan is unlikely to gain approval, any cutbacks in Washington could have a major impact on services in Georgia. Home to eight major military installations, Georgia could be a major beneficiary of any increase the Trump administration proposes in military spending. Cuts to nonmilitary spending, however, could...
Ossoff mostly lets others make anti-Trump attacks in Georgia’s 6th
Ossoff mostly lets others make anti-Trump attacks in Georgia’s 6th

Democrat Jon Ossoff often doesn’t mention Donald Trump’s name at campaign events unless pressed by voters or reporters. He doesn’t make much hay about the controversies plaguing the Republican’s young presidency. And he steers well clear of the i-word: impeachment. For someone once branded by his campaign as a “Make Trump...
Georgia’s 6th District now has a bunch of new voters
Georgia’s 6th District now has a bunch of new voters

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District already boasts more than a half-million voters. But the latest group to join the voting rolls may prove to be the most important in the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. More may be coming, as local election officials continue to process...
More Stories