Former Athens Co. Sheriff Conviction Affirmed

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The conviction of former Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly was affirmed by an appeals court, meaning Kelly will continue to serve his seven year prison sentence.

Kelly prisonKelly’s attorney, Scott Wood, argued for the reversal of the conviction in November at a convening of the 4th District Court of Appeals.

“The opinion from the court of appeals is disappointing,” Wood told WOUB in an email. “The state’s evidence proved that Sheriff Kelly was not a very good record-keeper but did not establish any criminal intent.”

Kelly 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.

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

In the ruling from the appeals court, the judges said because the term “enterprise” in organized crime cases includes an individual, “the potential innocence of Graham or McKee Auto Parts would not necessarily preclude Kelly’s conviction of the crime.”

“However, the evidence, which included Graham’s declaration that he would help hide the body if Kelly killed someone, as well as Graham’s storage of county property on his land and his theft of copper wire, were sufficient evidence for the jury to infer that Kelly and Graham were involved in an illicit scheme to obtain money from the sale of county property,” the ruling stated.

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.

Prosecutors argued that Kelly intentionally left out documents that were material evidence that he had misspent law enforcement funds and not reported campaign funds.

The court met in Ross County because two judges on the court recused themselves due to conflicts of interest. The recusals led to the appointment of Judge Paul Ringland.

Ringland heard the case with judges William Harsha and Matthew MacFarland.

The court of appeals decision could mean the end of appeals for Kelly, however Wood wrote in his email to WOUB that he and his client are still weighing options.

“We are evaluating whether there are any viable issues to pursue to the Supreme Court of Ohio,” Wood stated.

Kelly is currently serving his sentence the Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima.