Sheriff Blakely

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely speaks to voters at a political rally held in August 2018 at the Limestone Sheriff's Rodeo Arena.

Documents related to Thursday's arrest of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely show a grand jury began hearing the case against him in June.

Records show Circuit Judge Robert Baker empaneled the grand jury on June 18. A 13-count indictment was returned Wednesday against Blakely. Twelve of the counts are felonies and one is a misdemeanor.

The arrest warrant was also issued Wednesday, and Blakely was arrested and booked into his own jail at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, records show. He was later released on $49,000 bond.

Blakely was at work Thursday and Friday. His attorney, Mark McDaniel, told the media Thursday his client had no intention of resigning.

The AG's Office is the agency that presented the evidence against Blakely to the grand jury. The first four counts charge Blakely with four separate thefts from his campaign account totaling $11,000.

Specific thefts listed in the indictment include:

• A $1,500 check from the Alabama Realtors Political Action Committee;

• A $4,000 check from Red Brick Strategies, a Huntsville-based political consulting firm;

• A $2,500 check from Austin Hinds Motors Inc.; and

• A $3,000 check from Friends of Mike Blakely, his own political action committee.

Counts five through 10 charge him with theft or ethics charges stemming from him illegally taking money from Limestone County funds, including from the Sheriff's Law Enforcement Fund. Count eight alleges that on Dec. 9, 2015, Blakely had $1,000 sent by wire from a Limestone County Sheriff's Office employee. The indictment does not name the employee or in what capacity the employee serves.

A spokesperson with the AG's office verified the law enforcement fund is the Sheriff's Office pistol permit fund.

Count 11 alleges that on or about Aug. 17, 2016, Blakely solicited a $1,000 wire transfer from a subordinate for use other than the “ordinary course of business.”

Counts 12 and 13 charge the sheriff with using his official position or office to acquire interest-free loans. Specifically, count 12 charges Blakely with using his official position or office to obtain interest-free loans in the form of a $50,000 cashier’s check and/or a $22,189.68 credit. Count 13 charges Blakely with using his official position or office to obtain interest-free loans by taking money from a safe that was used to store the Limestone County inmates’ personal funds.

Looking ahead

The next step in the case would be an arraignment before a judge, but as of Friday court records did not indicate a date had been set. McDaniel told media he planned to “attack” the broad nature of the state's ethics law as part of Blakely's defense.

Blakely can legally remain sheriff while under indictment and through his trial.

There are six ways a person can be disqualified from holding the office of sheriff. Among them, if the sheriff is convicted of treason, embezzlement of public funds, malfeasance in office, larceny, bribery or any other crime punishable by imprisonment in the state or federal penitentiary. Or, if there is an unpaid judgement for any money received by the sheriff in his official capacity. Alabama Code 36-2-1 and 36-2-1(b) say the eligibility requirements must be met throughout the sheriff's tenure. If for some reason a sheriff is disqualified from holding the position of sheriff during the elected term, he must vacate the office.

A sheriff is also eligible to be impeached, according to Alabama Code 36-11-1, for:

• Willful neglect of duty;

• Corruption in office;

• Incompetency;

• Intemperance in the use of intoxicating liquors or narcotics to such an extent in view of the dignity of the office and importance of its duties as unfits the officer for the discharge of such duties;  or

• Any offense involving moral turpitude while in office or committed under color thereof or connected therewith.

Policy changes

Because Blakely is still sheriff, he still has legal access to the same funds from which the Attorney General's Office has accused him of stealing. Sheriff's Office Spokesman Stephen Young said Thursday there would be no change in who oversees Sheriff's Office funds.

An Attorney General's Office spokesperson told The News Courier any changes regarding a sheriff's access to certain funds, like pistol permit and inmate funds, would have to be established by the Alabama Legislature.

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