Pat Kelly’s Attorney Argues For Voiding of Convictions

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CHILLICOTHE – Former Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly’s defense attorney made the case for the reversal of his convictions during oral arguments Thursday in front of the 4th District Court of Appeals in Ross County.

Defense attorney Scott Wood asked that the court look at the legal aspects of the case rather than what he said were ulterior motives for the conviction.

“From the beginning, this was a political prosecution, which led to Pat Kelly’s life being put under a microscope,” Wood told the three-judge panel.

Kelly prisonKelly was found guilty on Feb. 12, 2015,  by an Athens County jury, 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 to come to the decision after listening to three weeks of arguments by Wood and prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Kelly filed notice of appeal in April of that year, citing insufficient evidence for some of his convictions, including 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.

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.

Wood’s main argument in reference to the corrupt activity charge was the lack of responsibility put on Pearl Graham and McKee’s Scrap Yard, the two named in trial as part of Kelly’s “organized crime.”

“There is no evidence to show they had a common purpose,” Wood told the court.

Judge William Harsha asked Thursday about a document brought up on both sides of the case, which attorneys said included records of money from the cash box that was maintained by Kelly while he was sheriff, money related to confidential informants and proceeds from the sale of scrap. The document, referred to as “list.pdf,” was brought up often during the trial as well.

That document, Ohio Attorney General’s Office Assistant Prosecutor James Roberts argued, was intentionally left out of investigatory documents provided by Kelly, and was created by Kelly after he found out that investigators from the Attorney General’s office became aware of his sales from scrap items.

Kelly testified at trial, just as Wood argued on Kelly’s behalf at the appeal proceedings, that the document was a combination of other documents that had already been provided to investigators.

Harsha went back and forth with Roberts about what numbers  were on the document and whether it could have been an “honest mistake” that Kelly left the document out.

“There’s no record of any of these funds…until January 25, 2013, when (Kelly) created this document because he thought he was going to need it for the state audit,” Roberts argued, adding that according to forensic investigation into Kelly’s computer, the former sheriff had added expenditures such as the cash box totals and eight transactions with the scrap yard after creating the document.

The first transaction with the scrap yard was in April 2009, and the last was recorded by the prosecutor as May 11, 2011. It wasn’t until June 2013 that Kelly “became aware” that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation was looking into the property sold for scrap, Roberts said.

Wood argued that missing one document amid hundreds of documents subpoenaed by the investigators was not significant.

“If that digital document was so damaging to Pat Kelly, then that may imply or infer some knowledge on his part as to why he would not want that document to be disclosed,” Wood said. “But it turns out that that document is not damaging to Sheriff Kelly.”

Harsha interrupted that statement with another perspective.

“Other than the fact that he created it way after the fact,” Harsha said. “You could infer…that he created it in January 2013 to cover his tracks for something.”

In argument to theft in office charges regarding meals reported by Kelly that prosecutor’s said were not for a “proper public purpose,” Wood called the incidents and the case against Kelly “a lack-of-documentation case.”

Harsha heard the case along with Judge Matthew McFarland and Judge Robert Paul Ringland. Ringland was brought in to oversee the case with the other two judges after Judge Peter Abele and Judge Marie Hoover recused themselves citing conflicts of interest. The change also caused the case to be moved to Ross County.

The judges will issue a written ruling in the case, but no timeline was given on when the ruling would be released.