Status Of Special Grand Jury Unclear After Thursday’s Session

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UPDATE 11:19 a.m. Grand jurors looking into allegations relating to Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly left the Courthouse Thursday afternoon with the public having some unanswered questions. Will they be back or are they finished taking testimony?

Ohio Assistant Attorney General James Roberts, one of the attorneys handling the case, was mum on the topic, declining to discuss the status of the grand jury that heard testimony three days this week and that had also met in June and September.

Attorney General’s spokesman Dan Tierney last week described the grand jury as “active and ongoing.” When asked late Thursday afternoon if that was still the case, he said yes, but added that doesn’t necessarily mean the jurors will meet again. He said the office won’t comment on when grand juries will meet.

On Thursday, Sheriff’s Capt. Bryan Cooper appeared before the grand jury for about a half hour as its first witness for the day. Other than Cooper and the attorneys, the only others involved in the case who entered the grand jury room were agents of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, including a forensic accountant.

Cooper declined to answer The Messenger’s questions about what he was asked while meeting with the grand jury. Most other witnesses have responded the same way.

During the three days of testimony this week, several current or former employees of the sheriff’s office appeared before the panel. One of those was Brynne Morris who went before the grand jury twice, the second time bringing some records with her Wednesday.

Kelly said Thursday that those records were from his office’s concealed-carry permit program, and were returned to the office Thursday by a BCI agent. According to Kelly, Morris was told that she would not be needed further.

As The Messenger previously reported, the person who processes concealed-carry permit applications for the department, Chris McCauley, also appeared before the grand jury Wednesday.

The grand jurors left the Courthouse at about 3:15 p.m. Thursday, earlier than on the prior two days.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has not said what the grand jury is considering. However, County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn has previously confirmed he’d asked the AG’s office to investigate several matters, including Kelly’s alleged disposal of prosecutor’s office records, a state audit with findings against Kelly and an assault complaint from 2012 in which Kelly was accused of stuffing a flier into a man’s shirt pocket. The Jacksonville solicitor had also asked the attorney general’s office to look into the assault allegation.

However, over the past several months there have been indications that BCI and/or the grand jury have been looking into other matters, including disposal of county vehicles, the sale by Kelly of county scrap and the handling of concealed-carry permits.

A special grand jury convened in Athens by the Ohio Attorney General's Office continued to hear testimony Thursday morning.

Thursday marked the third day this week that the grand jury met, having previously taken testimony in June and September.

The first witness Thursday morning was Capt. Bryan Cooper of the Athens County Sheriff's Office.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office has not said what the grand jury concerns. However, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, an arm of the attorney general's office, is believed to have been looking into several matters relating to Sheriff Patrick Kelly.

Several current and former employees of the sheriff's office have appeared before the grand jury.