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Suspended DeKalb CEO Ellis granted parole after 8 months

Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is free from prison after serving eight months of his 18-month sentence for perjury and attempted extortion.

Ellis, convicted last July, was granted parole as soon as he was eligible, said Steve Hayes, a spokesman for the Georgia Parole Board. The board examined Ellis’ case, criminal history and other factors.

“The Parole Board’s decision reflects its feeling that this individual’s release is compatible with the welfare of society,” Hayes said. “This individual will do well under parole supervision.”

Ellis, 58, had been incarcerated at Long State Prison, a medium-security facility located southwest of Savannah, until he was released Tuesday.

His attorney, Anthony Lake, declined to comment Wednesday because Ellis’ appeal is still pending.

Ellis, who was twice elected to DeKalb’s most powerful position, was indicted and then suspended from office by Gov. Nathan Deal in July 2013. Deal’s office didn’t return several emails and phone messages Wednesday seeking comment on the status of the suspension.

Ellis still carries the CEO title because he can’t be permanently removed from office until he loses his appeal.

When Ellis first went to trial, a jury deadlocked in October 2014.

Eight months later, jury found Ellis guilty of trying to shake down Power and Energy Services, an Austell business, for a $2,500 campaign contribution and threatening to end its $250,000 contract with the county. He was also convicted on three perjury counts for lying about his role in awarding county contracts. Ellis was acquitted on five other charges.

Ellis, a real estate attorney, has temporarily lost his license to practice law, but it could be reinstated if he wins his appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

His attorneys have written in court documents that they believed Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson made several errors.

They questioned the scope of the special grand jury investigation that led to the criminal charges, which initially focused on allegations of fraud in water and sewer contracting. The grand jury’s inquiry later expanded to cover allegations of corruption in other parts of county government.

They also have objected to Johnson’s ruling that Ellis couldn’t present testimony from contractors who didn’t feel pressured by him to make campaign contributions.

Ellis’ parole lasts until the end of this year, and then he will serve another 3½ years on probation.

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May has overseen the county’s executive branch for the last 2½ years. May announced last month he doesn’t plan to seek election to the CEO position when the current four-year term expires at the end of 2016.

“DeKalb’s efficient and responsive government continues to operate under the leadership of Interim CEO Lee May, as it has since July 2013, when he was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal,” said spokesman Burke Brennan.

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