VALDOSTA -- The federal trial of Alapaha District Attorney Robert B. Ellis Jr. that was scheduled to start Monday has been continued until September.
Ellis has been indicted on five charges for alleged sexual misconduct with a woman his office was prosecuting. The original indictment from April was changed last week to add a charge of making false statements to a federal officer. The indictment states Ellis told federal investigators he did not have sex with a woman he was prosecuting. That added charge changed the wording in two of the civil rights violations to state Ellis is charged with aggravated sexual abuse for forcing the woman to have sex with him on two different occasions. The maximum sentence for those charges is life in prison.
The charge of making false statements is a felony punishable by five years. The other felony charge is witness tampering which states Ellis told the woman not to speak with investigators. Another charge of civil rights violations is a misdemeanor. Ellis waived his right for a second arraignment. He continues to serve as district attorney for the Alapaha Circuit, which consists of Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook and Lanier counties. The governor's office can appoint a committee to review his ability to act as the district attorney while under federal indictment. No action has been taken so far.
Shane Hicks, deputy press secretary for Gov. Sonny Perdue, said the Review Commission process has been postponed until the governor receives the new indictment. At that time, the Review Commission selection will begin 14 days after it has been received. Hicks said the earliest they can select the two district attorneys to sit on the commission with Georgia Attorney's General is the middle of this month.
Ellis is represented by local attorney Converse Bright, working with Atlanta attorneys Michael Bowers and J. Tom Morgan.
He qualified for re-election and faces opposition from Democratic challenger Cathy Helms in the July primary election. Republican challenger Charles J. "Jody" Steedley faces the winner of that race in November.
To contact Tanya B. O'Berry, call 244-3400, ext. 239.