Ellis v. State
The Supreme Court of Georgia held that a DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer was not protected under former O.C.G.A. §45-11-4, which applied to certain misdemeanors committed by public officers, and that he would be granted a re-trial for his charge of criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion and perjury.
In June 2012, DeKalb County CEO, Burrell Ellis Jr., began contacting one of the county’s vendors, Power and Energy Services, Inc., in order to solicit a contribution toward his campaign. In a series of recorded phone calls between the Ellis and one of the power company’s owners, Brandon Cummings, Ellis implied that the power company’s contract with the county would “expire” if the company did not make a $2,500.00 contribution toward his campaign. Ellis used his secretary and the county’s Director of Purchasing and Contracting, Kevin Walton, to continually urge Cummings to make a campaign donation and to leave poor critiques in the power company’s file in order to hinder the company from any future employment with the county. Ultimately, Power and Energy did not make the contribution to Ellis’ campaign and their contract with the city was not renewed.
At trial, a jury found Ellis guilty of perjury (in relation to a series of false statements given to a grand jury) and attempt to commit theft by extortion (in relation to his attempt to solicit $2,500 from Power and Energy Services) and he appealed on the grounds that his rights to substantive due process and equal protection of the laws were violated based on the inapplicability of the former version of O.C.G.A. §45-11-4 to his case, and that the trial court erred with respect to various evidentiary matters at this trial.
The Supreme Court found that Ellis’ constitutional rights were not violated because former O.C.G.A §45-11-4 did not apply to him. They also found however, that the incriminating statements he made to a Grand Jury were outside of the time period the grand jury was ordered to assess, and therefore were inadmissible. For that reason, the Supreme Court reversed Ellis’ conviction for perjury and ordered a new trial on his charge for attempted extortion.