Appeals Court Judges Recuse Themselves From Kelly Case

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The appeal of a former Athens County Sheriff is being rescheduled because judges on the appeals court have cited conflicts in the case.

Kelly prisonThe Fourth District Court of Appeals was set to hear the case on July 21, along with two other cases. They were to appear in Athens as part of a regular rotation the court does around the district.

But according to an official with the court, two of the four judges on the panel are recusing themselves due to conflicts in the case. The official declined to specify which judges cited the conflicts, but Judge Peter Abele is the only judge from Athens. Judge William H. Harsha is from Chillicothe and judges Matthew W. McFarland and Marie M. Hoover are both of Portsmouth.

Kelly was indicted in January 2014 in Athens County Common Pleas Court before being convicted in February 2015 of felony counts including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, 12 counts of theft in office, three counts of theft and one count each of perjury and failure to maintain a cashbook.

The jury deliberated for 16 hours over the course of two days after listening to three weeks of arguments by defense attorney Scott Wood and prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The charges stemmed from misuse of funds from the Furtherance of Justice account and other sheriff’s office funds, along with campaign funds and profits from scrap metal sales he made during his time as the sheriff. Kelly was also found guilty of failing to keep a cashbook in the sheriff’s office.

He filed for appeal on April 9, 2015, with Wood arguing that there was  insufficient evidence for some of his convictions, including theft, perjury and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, and saying the trial court should not have found him guilty of contempt during the course of the trial.

Now that the judges have recused themselves, visiting judges will have to be appointed to the case. A timeline has not been established for the appointments, and the appeals court is not set to convene in Athens again until October.