Former Athens County Sheriff To Be Sentenced Friday

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The former Athens County sheriff Patrick Kelly is set to find out Friday how much time he will be spending in prison after a jury found him guilty of multiple counts including corruption and theft last month.

Kelly has been in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail for more than a month since he was taken away from the Athens County Common Pleas Court in handcuffs on Feb. 12.

He was found guilty by an Athens County jury after almost 17 hours of deliberation. They said he was guilty of the most severe charge, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, along with 12 counts of theft in office, three counts of theft and one count each of perjury and failure to maintain a cashbook. He was acquitted, however, of charges that he had stolen from a sheriff’s cashbox, tampered with records, tampered with evidence and obstructed official business, along with charges of money laundering and dereliction of duty.

The corrupt activity charge, a first-degree felony, guarantees by statute that Kelly will serve a minimum of three years and 30 days in prison. The other charges could be combined for concurrent sentences as part of sentencing guidelines, but Kelly could potentially receive the maximum of 27.5 years in prison, keeping him incarcerated until he is 91.

During three weeks of trial proceedings which began on Jan. 26, slightly less than a year after he was indicted by a grand jury on 25 counts. Testimony and documents presented by prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office wound through charges that Kelly had failed to maintain a legally-required cashbook within the sheriff’s office, that he had spent money from the Furtherance of Justice account for personal meals and two suits which he wore during his trial.

Furtherance of Justice monies are allocated from a sheriff’s salary to be used for “law-enforcement purposes,” though the defense argued through testimony from law enforcement officials that the definition of “law-enforcement purposes” was a broad one.

The jury apparently disagreed with arguments by the prosecution that Kelly had altered computerized records and sent unauthorized paper records to a local landfill to obstruct justice.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn and Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson, along with county commissioners Charlie Adkins and Lenny Eliason testified to having witnessed records being thrown away at the direction of Kelly.

The jury also disagreed that Kelly had misused a cashbox that, according to testimony by Kelly and employees of his office, was kept in his office. In his own testimony, Kelly said he used the cashbox — along with another cashbox that was not mentioned in trial until his testimony — to pay for confidential informants.

Cross-examination during Kelly’s testimony became a tense back-and-forth between him and Assistant Attorney General James Roberts, but throughout nearly seven hours of overall testimony, Kelly vehemently denied having done wrong.

The defense also brought up the man with whom Kelly was primarily accused of engaging in corrupt activity, a member of the group Seniors and Law Enforcement Together named Pearl Graham. Graham, gave an animated testimony, during which he elicited laughter from the jury and was admonished by Cosgrove for failing to answer the prosecution’s questions in the proper manner. But he also testified that Kelly was a friend and someone Graham was happy to help. He told the jury he had helped carry property to the scrap yard, and had even taken some copper wire home without telling Kelly. He later showed the copper wire to state investigators at during one of multiple interviews with them.

Graham was brought up along with several witnesses on both sides to address Kelly’s scrapping of materials like copper wire and a bread truck at McKee’s Scrap Yard. While testimony was heard that previous sheriffs had also sold property for scrap at the same business, the jury agreed with the prosecution, that Kelly had sold county property there without the authorization of county commissioners, which constituted theft.

Kelly was also found guilty of charges related to his campaign funds, including receiving money from his campaign manager, Clinton Stanley, which Stanley had funneled through his own bank account. The defense took issue with Stanley’s credibility as a witness, saying he had brokered a “deal” with the prosecution to save himself from prosecution. Stanley also admitted during his testimony that he had forged his wife’s name on a check to make it appear as though Kelly was receiving donations from more people.

But evidence was also shown during the trial that Kelly — without notifying his campaign treasurer and wife, Debra Kelly — deposited money from the account related to his campaign into his own or his wife’s bank account and even partially cashed checks intended to be campaign donations.

After Kelly was found guilty, Cosgrove revoked Kelly’s previous bond, for which he had been allowed to remain out of jail during the course of the case. She deemed him a “flight risk,” particularly because of the first-degree felony conviction.

Kelly was segregated from the general population of the regional jail for his own safety, according to Warden Jeremy Tolson. Tolson said he will remain segregated until his sentencing, which is typical protocol when an inmate has been a member of law enforcement.

Sentencing proceedings could be crowded if a planned protest of Kelly’s conviction goes on as scheduled.

A Facebook page called “Justice for Sheriff Kelly” was created soon after Kelly was convicted, calling for action including a protest of the sentencing and letters of support to be sent to Cosgrove. The administrators of the page also claim that Debra Kelly has encouraged them to send the letters to the judge before sentencing.

The peaceful protest was brought up on the page on Feb. 17, and garnered support from commenters who even discussed making signs for the event.

Sentencing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday.