Grand Jury Meets Tuesday In Sheriff Case

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A grand jury met Tuesday as part of a probe into the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.

The grand jury was originally supposed to meet on Sept. 20th.

The change of date, the investigation, and the growing tension between Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn and the sheriff’s office has Sheriff Pat Kelly upset rather than worried.

“I’m tired of them playing around with the integrity of this office, myself and my employees. We’ve done nothing wrong. There’s no criminal intent anywhere here, and we’re just trying to make Athens County a safer, more enjoyable place for everybody to live, work and raise their kids in.”

Blackburn, who is a witness in the investigation and filed the first complaint against Kelly to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office a few years ago, believes there are reasons that Kelly should be concerned.

“We’re in a sad situation where our sheriff is accused of doing multiple illegal acts and they’re being investigated,” he said.

The illegal acts Blackburn is referring to includes accusations regarding assault, stolen campaign signs during the 2012 election, missing files and alleged misappropriated funds. Kelly denies all the allegations.

The attorney general’s office issued four subpoenas against Kelly the last week of August. The subpoenas request access to records within the sheriff’s office. Some of the records regard an alleged investigation issued by the sheriff targeting Blackburn, County Auditor Jill Thompson, Common Pleas Judge L. Alan Goldsberry and former municipal court judge Douglas Bennett.

Last week, Kelly told The Athens Messenger that he plans to comply with three of the four subpoenas. The fourth subpoena seeks all records relating to confidential informants used by Kelly and his deputies. Kelly said he thinks the attorney general's office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation is "out of line."

"They're fishing for something,” he said. “This attorney general is out of line, BCI is out of line. I don't think this guy thinks from day to day what he's saying. If we start releasing names of informants, how many people are going to corporate?"

Blackburn said he's looking forward to the grand jury to reach a decision.

"I'm confident that when this is over, justice will be done," he said.

Kelly agrees.

"I think every one of these guys are seeing they have to rule in favor of the Sheriff," he said.

In the meantime, Kelly said he is "communicating under advisement from a couple attorneys" since he has been denied outside counsel by the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office.  

“He can represent himself or retain counsel, but the county would not be providing him an attorney,” Blackburn said.

The grand jury did not complete its investigation Tuesday and will meet again on a later date.