Impact Of Athens County Sheriff’s Case On Other Cases Not Yet Known

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A witness in the case of an Alexander Twp. man accused of the attempted murder of 11 people may or may not be called to the stand by Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn due to numerous criminal allegations against the witness.

That witness, however, happens to be Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly.

“(The prosecution will) have to decide what value (Kelly’s testimony) brings versus the potential damage to the case,” Blackburn said. “It’s a process we go through when calling any witness.”

Franklin Green, 34, is charged in Athens County Common Pleas Court with 11 felony counts of attempted murder, 11 felony counts of felonious assault, one felony count of having weapons while under disability and one misdemeanor count of assaulting a police dog.

On April 29, law enforcement officials attempted to serve a warrant on Green at his Fisher Road home. However, when they approached, Green allegedly fired between 15-20 rounds at a team that included nine certified officers, a reserve deputy and a paramedic, keeping the unit at bay.

Green allegedly threatened to kill himself but, after some time on the phone, Kelly was able to talk Green down and convinced him to surrender to law enforcement. Kelly’s role in the incident makes him a potential witness for the prosecution.

But the sheriff is currently facing a 25-count indictment that includes allegations against him of theft in office, money laundering, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and other offenses causing Blackburn to have to make a decision about placing the county’s chief law enforcement officer on the witness stand.

“The sheriff is innocent until proven guilty, which I’ve said, and so there is some level of what is admissible (in the Green case) and what’s not,” Blackburn said.

He added that any details of Kelly’s role in the case would likely be admissible but anything outside of the Green incident could be up for argument. Kelly has not been convicted of a criminal offense, so the prosecution could argue that the details of his personal criminal case are not admissible in the Green case, according to Blackburn.

The prosecution will have to consider “impeachment evidence” as a factor, meaning they must determine whether witnesses have a motive for not telling the truth, Blackburn said.

If Kelly were to be called to the stand during Green’s trial — currently scheduled for March 18 — he could still refuse to answer any questions that may delve into his own case under protection of the Fifth Amendment. Doing so, though, could potentially place the case at risk of a mistrial.

“If the state had an opportunity to examine (Kelly as a witness), but then he exerted his Fifth Amendment rights, the defense would not have had the opportunity to cross-examine,” Blackburn said. “Then it could be determined a mistrial.”

As for the other deputies involved in the case, Blackburn said he doesn’t foresee issues with their testimony since they haven’t been named in the Kelly case. Their own personnel files will likely be a part of the case, more than any involvement with the sheriff.

Blackburn said the danger to a deputy’s credibility based on Kelly’s case is low for future investigations.

“I don’t foresee an officer being cross-examined based on the conduct of his administrator,” Blackburn said.

It is not known whether Green’s trial will take place in March. Green attempted to plead innocent by reason of insanity but conflicting reports from mental health evaluations caused the court to plan for a jury trial. The defense has asked for a continuance because of the conflicting evaluations which could delay the trial.

Currently, there are no other criminal cases in which Kelly would play a prominent role as a witness for the sheriff’s office. Blackburn said some drug cases may involve the sheriff however and the same considerations would need to be made.

“In his five years as sheriff…he’s only been forced to testify once, as far as I know,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said he has not decided whether he will use Kelly as a witness in Green’s case.