Sheriff Obtains Attorney For Criminal Case

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Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly has obtained an attorney to represent him at an upcoming hearing in the criminal case in which Kelly faces a 25-count indictment.

Meanwhile, another name has surfaced as a possible appointee as sheriff if Kelly is suspended from office while the criminal case is pending.

Columbus attorney Bradley Koffel filed a notice of “limited appearance” in Athens County Common Pleas Court, saying he will represent Kelly at a court hearing next Friday and also request and review discovery on behalf of Kelly.

Koffel filed a request for discovery, which is standard in criminal cases.

The document seeks from the prosecution any statements Kelly may have given, any prior criminal records of Kelly and witnesses in the case, any evidence favorable to Kelly, investigative reports, witness statements and other information.

The case is being prosecuted by special prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The 25 counts on which Kelly was indicted on Jan. 31 include 13 theft in office charges, four theft charges and one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, tampering with evidence, tampering with records, perjury and failure to keep a cashbook, all felonies. He also was indicted on misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty and obstructing official business.

Kelly pleaded innocent at a Feb. 10 arraignment at which he was represented by Athens attorney Robert Shostak, who told the court he was only representing Kelly for the arraignment.

During the court appearance, visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove agreed to give Kelly “a reasonable amount of time” to hire a lawyer.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 28 at 1 p.m., and also scheduled the same day is a hearing on whether the sheriff’s office should be held in contempt for allegedly not complying with a grand jury subpoena for records. Kelly has said his office has attempted to comply, but that the amount of records requested was excessive.

Earlier this week, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor appointed a commission of three retired judges to consider whether Kelly should be suspended while his case is pending.

The Messenger reported earlier this month that David Malawista, who is an auxiliary Athens police officer and former sheriff’s deputy and chief deputy, and Detective Lt. Jack Taylor, currently with the sheriff’s department, have expressed interest in being appointed sheriff if a vacancy occurs.

On Friday, Rodney Smith surfaced as another potential appointee.

“I would be interested if there is a vacancy,” said Smith, who retired last year as a lieutenant with the sheriff’s office. He was with the department for more than 26 years.

The appointment, if one is necessary, would initially be made by the county commissioners, until the Athens County Democratic Party acted. Kelly is a Democrat.

County Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Hecht said Friday that Malawista submitted a letter of interest a few months ago, and that Taylor recently submitted a packet that included a letter of interest, a resume and training certificates.

She said she had not received anything from Smith.

“I’m pretty sure Rodney has talked to the (county) commissioners,” Hecht said.

Malawista, Taylor and Smith have said that if they were appointed, they would run for sheriff the next time the position is on the ballot.

Taylor has also pointed out that if he were appointed interim sheriff it would save the county money, since his $56,000 salary is already budgeted and the only increased cost would be the approximate $13,000 difference between his current salary and that of the sheriff.

Under Ohio law, Kelly would continue to be paid if suspended.