Alabama’s longest-serving sheriff, Mike Blakely, convicted in corruption trial

A northern Alabama jury today sentenced Mike Blakely, the state’s longest-serving sheriff, to two counts in his corruption trial and he was jailed.

After weeks of testimony and dozens of witnesses, the Athens city center jury found Blakely guilty of one count of theft and one count of using his position for personal gain. The theft charge was linked to his campaign fund and relationship with Red Brick Consulting, while the personal gain charge was linked to loans from a safe containing money belonging to inmates .

The jury had examined 10 counts of theft and use of the position for personal gain – nine felonies and one misdemeanor. But the jury found Blakely not guilty of the other eight counts.

Pamela Baschab, the retired judge specially appointed to preside over the case, told the court she was returning Blakely to jail. His lawyers have filed for bail, arguing that he poses no risk of absconding and that he has close ties to the community as a longtime resident of Limestone County.

After nearly four decades as a sheriff in the county, Blakely was escorted from the courtroom to the jail by one of his deputies.

The office of Steve Marshall, Republican attorney general for Alabama, continued the case. The state initially laid 13 charges.

“13 counts are now reduced to two,” said Mark McDaniel, a lawyer for Blakey’s defense team, after hearing the verdict. “We will definitely appeal this decision. “

Clay Crenshaw, chief assistant attorney general, read a statement from Marshall’s office.

“Civil servants are responsible for carrying out their duties in an honest and irreproachable manner,” he said. “When that bond of trust is broken, our society suffers undue hardship. “

Blakely, a Democrat, took office as Limestone County Sheriff in 1983. Due to felony convictions, Alabama law says he will lose the elected post he held for 10 terms. Until Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey appoints a replacement, state law says Mike West, the county coroner, will take over as sheriff. Gina Maiola, the governor’s press secretary, said their office will start taking resumes and interviewing candidates in the coming weeks.

Baschab said she would set a sentencing date later. Blakely could be sentenced to jail.

The jury found Blakely guilty of stealing $ 4,000 from his campaign account by passing the money through Red Brick, a Huntsville consulting firm. Jurors also found Blakely guilty of obtaining $ 29,050 in interest-free loans from a safe containing money belonging to inmates at the county jail he oversaw as sheriff.

Lawyers for the state’s special prosecutions division failed to prove three other charges Blakely stole from his campaign, and allegations he abused or stole money from the law enforcement fund. county law, allegedly gambled with taxpayers’ pennies, solicited money from one of its employees. and traded inmate labor for a loan of $ 50,000.

Robert Tuten, Blakely’s lead defense attorney, told the jury in closing arguments the sheriff was not guilty because the state had failed to prove he intended to commit crimes .

“If there is no intention … then there is no crime,” Tuten told the jury on Friday. “There is no missing money. All the accounts are balanced.

Deputy Attorney General Kyle Beckman told the jury that Blakely violated public trust.

“He has sworn not only to apply the law but to obey the law,” Kyle Beckman, deputy state attorney general, told the jury. “He swore it 10 times. Mike Blakely violated this oath.

Blakely was charged in August 2019 with 13 counts. Prosecutors dismissed two counts before trial and dropped a third count after presenting their case to the jury.

The jury deliberated on five ethics charges accusing Blakely of using his position for personal gain, four counts of theft and one count of theft.

Blakely, 70, is just one of many Limestone County officials who have come under scrutiny for corruption in recent years. Limestone, home to nearly 100,000 residents, is one of Alabama’s fastest growing counties, as the suburb of Huntsville continues to expand west.

The trial began three weeks ago and the jury selection took place in secret. Judge Baschab opened the case after the Alabama Press Association filed a motion on behalf of media outlets in northern Alabama. The judge said she decided to allow members of the media to watch the proceedings due to a joint petition filed by the defense and prosecution.

At trial, jurors heard testimony from 46 witnesses and saw hundreds of pages of documents, including bank statements, phone logs, casino files and sheriff’s office files.

The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for about nine hours, starting Friday afternoon and continuing on Monday.

This breaking story will be updated.

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