ACLU hires Burrell Ellis as point-man in the Georgia capitol

Former DeKalb chief executive Burrell Ellis is now the ACLU of Georgia’s political director. AJC file

The ACLU of Georgia said Monday it hired former DeKalb County chief executive Burrell Ellis as the organization’s first political director, a new role designed to bolster the group’s profile and influence under the Gold Dome.

It is a return to the public spotlight for Ellis, who was a rising political star when he was elected the county’s top official in 2008. Instead, his tenure was most remembered for a long-running corruption probe that targeted his administration.

The civil rights group cited what it called Ellis’ personal experience with the “harsh reality of injustice” in announcing his hire, a point he embraced in an interview Monday about his new job.

“Justice doesn’t just happen. And I’ve seen what happens when justice doesn’t happen. People lose the right to a fair trial, the right to counsel, the right to defend themselves,” said Ellis, a real estate attorney. “We have to fight for that. We have to be vigilant to ensure those rights are protected.”

Ellis was found guilty in July 2015 of trying to shake down a county contractor and served an eight-month prison sentence for his convictions. He always maintained his innocence and the Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously in November 2016 that he had been denied a fair trial.

DeKalb County’s top prosecutor said in February she had dropped criminal charges against Ellis, deciding against a retrial after the state supreme court threw out his guilty verdict.

Andrea Young, the ACLU of Georgia’s executive director, said Ellis’ political experience and his personal background have given him a “360 view” of the criminal justice system – and an understanding of where it can be improved.

“This is what makes Burrell such a uniquely qualified person for this role. Smart justice and criminal justice reform are major ACLU initiatives,” said Young. “There are very few people who have his perspective of the criminal justice system.”

The hire comes at a pivotal time. Gov. Nathan Deal has spent a chunk of his political capital on a vast criminal justice overhaul that aimed to divert more nonviolent offenders away from costly prison sentence time. Ellis said Deal’s initiatives are just the start of changes he hopes to push over the coming years.

Among the group’s priorities including changes to bail-based systems that the ACLU has challenged as an unconstitutional violation and voter-rights initiatives. Ellis and Young also plan to pursue broader changes to the criminal justice system to focus more on rehabilitation than incarceration.

“We want to advance that work to reduce the numbers of people incarcerated in Georgia and take steps to get a fair system,” said Ellis. “Not just because it’s unjust and immoral, but because in many ways its ineffective.”

 

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5 comments
The Extremists
The Extremists

His perspective of the criminal justice system, Andrea, is from behind bars. He shook down a contractor. There was corruption on his watch. Cities like Tucker are off the DeKalb tax rolls because of corruption and lack of leadership. Family members of county staff hired left and right. Thurmond is no better. Claims in private that he is "the sole authority" for the county and the county commission should heed him.

letmesaythis
letmesaythis

Not only a big mistake to hire him, but they created a new position for him. 

They will see their donations waver and plummet. 


Bill Fisher
Bill Fisher

It wasn't that Ellis isn't guilty, he "got off" because the trial judge made a significant error and he won a new trial on appeal. New DA decided for whatever reason not to retry him. Friends, he is guilty and that's why he served eight months and, if the judge had correctly done her job, he would have served the prison term he deserved.

jmac5
jmac5

Great, now if I ever need another reason  to never donate money to the ACLU I have one.

cenobuhs
cenobuhs

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