Athens County Sheriff’s Office Escapes Contempt Finding

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Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly appeared in court Friday for a pre-trial conference and motion hearing in which a judge gave the sheriff’s office an ultimatum about subpoenaed documents.

Judge Patricia Cosgrove, who was appointed to oversee the case, said the sheriff’s office had until 4 p.m. Friday to fulfill the rest of the subpoenas that it was asked to provide.

“I find that the sheriff’s office is in contempt of the order which I signed,” Cosgrove said.

However, she said the contempt finding would be purged if the sheriff’s office could come up with the documents before 4 p.m. An hour before the deadline, the sheriff’s office told The Messenger they had submitted the rest of the documents, fulfilling the subpoenas.

The prosecution had subpoenaed more than 40,000 documents from the sheriff’s office since October, T. Alan Regas, counsel for the sheriff’s office, told the court. This included documents about firearms used and obtained by the sheriff’s office, concealed carry weapons licenses and applications and hours worked by deputies in the sheriff’s office training academy.

Ohio Attorney General Assistant Prosecutor Jim Roberts said the subpoenas had been largely fulfilled as of Friday, but there were still some documents the prosecution didn’t have. He maintained that there had been no communication between the sheriff’s office attorneys and the prosecution about the status of the documents.

Roberts said he was told the sheriff’s office was “in the process of complying” to the subpoena regarding firearm documentation, but they had not received all that was asked for. They had also not received hours worked at the academy from 2010 and the first half of 2011, Roberts said.

Regas said six sheriff’s office employees clocked 325 hours to get the documents done.

Cosgrove gave another order at the conclusion of the court proceedings on Friday, announcing that Kelly and all parties involved were not to discuss the details of the case with the media except as attorneys are allowed under Ohio law.

“This case is going to be tried in a court of law,” Cosgrove said. “It is not going to be tried in electronic media, it is not going to be tried in the newspapers, it is not going to be tried on the radio.”

Kelly appeared with a new attorney, Bradley Koffel, who told the judge he would be the sheriff’s lawyer officially for the remainder of the case.

Kelly pleaded innocent Feb. 10 to 25 criminal counts, including 13 theft in office charges, four theft charges, 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.

The Attorney General’s Office has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to suspend the sheriff for the length of his case.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor announced the appointment of a three-judge commission on Feb. 19 to decide whether Kelly should be suspended. The judges have 14 days from the time of the appointment to make a preliminary determination. So far, no decision has been officially announced.

Kelly has maintained his innocence on all charges in the case and has said he will not accept a plea bargain.

A final pre-trial date was scheduled for Aug. 29, and a jury trial was scheduled for Sept. 29.

The court discussed the distribution of discovery, which Roberts described as “extensive.”

“We (the Attorney General’s Office prosecutors) have a separate server devoted to it,” Roberts said.

Neither Koffel nor Roberts had any comment after the court proceedings Friday.

Kelly remains out on a personal recognizance bond at $50,000, a bond he won’t have to pay unless he misses a court date.