- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) - Burrell Ellis, the suspended DeKalb County chief executive, was ordered Wednesday to serve 18 months of a 5-year sentence for his conviction on charges of perjury and attempted theft by extortion.

A judge sentenced Ellis after a hearing, ordering the former metro Atlanta executive to the 18 months in custody and the rest of the five years on probation.

Prosecutors say Ellis pressured vendors for campaign contributions. He was found guilty of perjury and attempted theft by extortion. He was acquitted of five other counts on charges that included bribery. A jury of six men and six women deliberated for more than four days before reaching the verdicts on July 1.

Ellis maintained his innocence, saying he made phone calls but didn’t threaten anyone or take action against vendors’ contracts.

At sentencing Wednesday, several character witnesses urged the judge to allow Ellis some type of punishment that would allow him to remain at home with his family, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“There is no extra money in Burrell Ellis’ pocket,” former DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown said. “There is a lot of damage that has been done to him, his family.”

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James had requested that Ellis serve five years in prison, followed by five years on probation.

After hearing from both sides, Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson sentenced Ellis, denying his request to be free on bond while he appeals.

Ellis’ supporters urged him to “be strong” as he was led from the courtroom, the Atlanta newspaper reported.

In 2013, prosecutors alleged in an indictment that Ellis tried to extort campaign contributions from companies and their employees. They said he instructed a county official to prevent some companies from getting business because they didn’t contribute to his campaign.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced after the indictment that he would suspend Ellis. That announcement came shortly after a three-person panel that was assembled by the governor voted unanimously to recommend the suspension.

The trial that ended this month was the second for Ellis. The first trial ended in a mistrial after more than a week of jury deliberations.

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