AG Asks Court To Compel Sheriff To Comply With Subpoena

By
Steve Robb-Athens Messenger staff journalist

Dateline
Updated Mon, Sep 16, 2013 10:26 am

A court order is being sought by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to compel Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

A motion seeking the order was filed Friday in Athens County Common Pleas Court, but does not specifically identify the nature of the subpoena.

However, Kelly has been trying to block a grand jury subpoena issued for records relating to his office’s use of confidential informants.

An Athens County grand jury has been meeting at the request of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which has not disclosed what the grand jury is considering.

However, it’s known that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation has been investigating allegations involving Kelly, and that at least some witnesses who testified before the grand jury are related to those allegations.

Some of the matters being investigated by BCI were referred to the attorney general’s office by County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

The motion to compel compliance with the grand jury subpoena indicates, but does not specifically say, that Kelly is an investigative target of the grand jury.

Kelly told The Messenger that’s how he’s interpreting the motion.

“The target, in a letter to the Athens County Common Pleas Court, has clearly indicated an unwillingness to comply with the grand jury subpoena,” the motion states.

Last week, Kelly wrote a letter to Common Pleas Judge George P. McCarthy asking him to quash the subpoena for the confidential informant records.

No formal motion to quash has been filed.

Kelly appeared briefly before the grand jury in June.

He told The Messenger on Friday that he was read his Miranda rights and declined to answer questions on the advice of an attorney with whom he had talked.

On Friday, Blackburn sent Kelly a letter saying there “is not a legal basis to quash the subpoena,” and advising the sheriff’s office to comply with the subpoena.

Blackburn wrote that if Kelly is willing to comply by Monday, the attorney general’s office has agreed to narrow the scope of the subpoena somewhat to limit it to confidential informant records from Kelly’s tenure as sheriff.

The original subpoena also sought records from 2008, the year before Kelly became sheriff.

Kelly said Friday that he does not know if he will comply by Monday, and indicated he wants to seek legal advice before then.

He also said that on Tuesday, when the county commissioners hold there regular weekly meeting, he will again ask them to support a request for county funds to hire an attorney.

Such requests must be made jointly to common pleas court by the commissioners and county prosecutor.

In June, Blackburn declined to support a request for outside counsel to represent Kelly in a dispute over disposal of county records.

In Friday’s letter, Blackburn said that he represents the office of the sheriff, and not Kelly individually.

“The office of the county prosecutor is not able to provide legal advice or represent Patrick Kelly,” Blackburn wrote.

Kelly disputes that, arguing that Blackburn is legal counsel for officeholders.

“He is the legal adviser. It’s about time he acted like it,” Kelly said.

Blackburn, in his letter, wrote: “If you feel you need representation for your own criminal or civil liabilities you will need to hire a personal attorney.”

Kelly has said he wants the subpoena quashed because providing records on confidential informants would hurt the ability of law enforcement officers to work with informants.

He said Friday that it could put in danger the lives of the informants, deputies and ultimately the public.

Blackburn, in his letter to Kelly, said that the records would remain confidential because of the required secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kelly said, adding that he doesn’t believe the secrecy of the 12 jurors can be relied upon.

“It has never been our intent, nor would if ever be our intent, to publicly disclose the name of a confidential informant,” Attorney General Mike DeWine told The Messenger on Thursday.

DeWine said the information sought by the subpoena is “essential to finding the truth in this investigation.”

Kelly has said that he campaigned against DeWine, and that he believes the investigation is politically motivated.

“That’s just an absurd statement by the sheriff,” DeWine said, adding that he frequently works with people who did not support his candidacy, including county prosecutors who appeared in commercials supporting his opponent.

Although the court motion by the AG’s office to compel compliance with the subpoena does not specifically say it’s the subpoena for the confidential informant records, it does give an indication for why the records are being sought.

“In order to complete the investigation, certain claims of an investigative target must be examined for corroboration or lack thereof,” the motion states.

“In order to evaluate the representations of the target, the state of Ohio issued a grand jury subpoena for certain documents and records.”

The motion asks Judge L. Alan Goldsberry for a closed-door hearing on the matter.

The grand jury subpoena for the confidential informant records was one of four issued Aug. 30 for sheriff’s office records.

The subpoenas indicate that compliance can be accomplished by providing certified copies of the records by Friday, Sept. 13.

One subpoena asked for records of hours worked by Kelly and his staff from Jan. 1, 2010 to July 31, 2013, while another asked for records relating to the seizure of copper wire during a 2007 traffic stop.

Kelly said Friday that the information was compiled, but not picked up by the agent.

The remaining subpoena asked for records of any investigations of public officials during Kelly’s tenure as sheriff, and names Blackburn, County Auditor Jill Thompson, Goldsberry and former municipal court judge Douglas Bennett.

Ask Friday if any such records had been compiled to give to BCI, Kelly declined comment.

 

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