Kelly Appeal Rescheduled, Will Be Heard In Ross County

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The appeal of a former Athens County sheriff serving prison time for 18 felony counts has been rescheduled after a judge was assigned to take the place of another judge with a reported conflict.

The case of Patrick Kelly will be heard on November 3 in Ross County, according to officials with the 4th District Court of Appeals.

Kelly prisonThe appeals court had to reschedule the July 21 hearing of the case after two of the three judges assigned to the case, judges Marie Hoover and Peter Abele, cited conflicts.

On July 22, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court responded to a request by the appeals court for a new judge in the case, and assigned Judge Robert Paul Ringland from the 12th District Court of Appeals.

Judges Matthew McFarland and William Harsha will also be on the panel for the Kelly case. Both McFarland and Harsha declined to discuss the nature of the specific conflicts for the other judges, but Harsha said it isn’t uncommon for a judge to consider a potential conflict in a case, even after agreeing to review it.

“There can be something that arises in a case that could cause a judge to consider whether they’re comfortable being on the panel,” Harsha said.

Those conflicts can be anything from knowing a defendant or a witness in the case, to having worked with an attorney involved. Many times the potential conflict will not have any effect on the case, so the judge decides not to recuse themselves, according to Harsha.

Harsha said the case was sent to Ross County to accommodate the schedules of the 4th district judges and the Ringland.

“We don’t come to Athens every week, so we’re trying to get (the case) in as quickly as we can,” Harsha said.

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 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.