August 3-Athens-Limestone County jury convicted him of felony, and on Monday night, the state’s longest sheriff, Mike Blakely, was escorted from court to prison.
Under Alabama law, Blakely was automatically dismissed during his tenth term as Limestone County Sheriff when he was convicted of a felony. He has been taken over by Limestone County Coroner Mike West until Governor Kay Ivy appoints a replacement. First inaugurated in 1983, Blakely faces up to 20 years in prison for each of his Class B felony convictions.
Judge Pamela Baschab of the former Alabama Criminal Appeals Court, who presided over the case, said he would schedule a decision hearing after the decision report was prepared.
Blakely, 70, was charged with 12 felony and 1 misdemeanor in August 2019. The Attorney General’s office has dismissed three felony cases. A jury on Monday found Blakely innocent on eight points, including misdemeanor.
“Public servants must give the best example of accountability, and no matter how long someone has been in office, it’s not beyond the law,” said Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall in a statement. “Sheriff Blakely has repeatedly sworn to enforce and comply with the law during his 40-year tenure. He now knows the consequences of violating that oath.”
Minutes after the jury announced the verdict, Blakely’s lawyer petitioned to set the bond until the verdict was issued.
According to the motion, “the defendant has not been charged with any other offense and has never been charged with any other crime.” “The defendant is a lifetime resident of Limestone County and has strong ties and family in the community. The defendant is not at risk of flying.”
His pretrial deposit was set at $ 49,000. It was not immediately clear from court records whether the court ruled the motion.
Mark McDaniel, one of Blakely’s lawyers, said Blakely would appeal.
The jury reached a verdict on the 16th day of the trial, which included about four dozen witnesses.
The jury found that Democrat Blakely was found guilty of using his public office or office for a single theft and personal gain. Both are class B felony punishments for up to 20 years.
Blakely was convicted of one charge, including the theft of $ 4,000 from a campaign account. Evidence presented at the trial showed that Blakely used his campaign account to deliberately overpay Huntsville’s political consulting firm, Red Brick Strategy. Red Brick owner Trent Willis testified that Blakely had arranged to pay Red Brick $ 7,500, but borrowed only $ 3,500. Willis testified that the purpose of the overpayment was to allow Breakley to put an additional $ 4,000 in his pocket.
Blakely’s Election Treasurer testified that he had issued a $ 7,500 check at Blakely’s direction and was unaware of the arrangement between Blakely and Willis. Blakely testified that the overpayment was a mistake. However, according to bank records, Blakely deposited the check in his personal account the same day Redbrick issued the check. Unlike some other election funds he deposited in his personal account, Blakely never repaid $ 4,000.
The defense called on several witnesses to attack Willis’ credibility, and prosecutors confirmed that he was under investigation by another branch of the Attorney General’s office. At some point during Willis’ testimony, at the prosecution’s recommendation, the judge warned him of his right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. He chose to continue his testimony.
Deputy Attorney General Clark Morris chose to work with Willis rather than defending Willis’ character, claiming to the jury that bank records support his testimony.
The jury also convicted Blakely of using his office for personal gain. Evidence to support this count came from Ramona Robinson, a former prison clerk at Blakely, along with bank records. Robinson testified that Blakely would regularly borrow money from her vault that was used to hold the prisoner’s funds. She said he usually borrows hundreds of dollars at a time and puts an IOU in the safe every time.
Robinson said he would give her a check for her personal account on a regular basis to settle the IOU, but frequently instructed her to hold the check instead of depositing it.
Another witness of the prosecution said that if 19 of these checks ($ 29,050 total) were monetized at the time of issuance and the checks were kept undeposited for up to 66 days, Blakely would take his personal checking account. Witnessed that he had withdrawn. Robinson testified that he would have been afraid of his work if he did not hold the check as instructed.
Blakely testified that at one point he might have told Robinson not to hit him in the bank so he could make a deposit.
Around 2:30 pm on Monday, the jury submitted a question to the judge.
“I want to know what happens if one or more counts don’t unanimously agree,” the memo read.
After consulting with a lawyer, Baschab called a jury to court and instructed him to continue deliberations. She said suspicions and the resulting retrial would increase national and defense costs, and future juries would face the same difficulties they faced.
At 4:40 pm, after a day and a half of deliberation, the jury completed the verdict and returned to court.
Many Breakley supporters, including a few lawmakers, remained in court both during testimony and deliberations. When Blakely was taken to jail, they chased him solemnly. Some were crying.
— E[email protected] or 256-340-2435. Twitter @ DD_Fleischauer.