Lawyer explains complexity of criminal case against Limestone County Sheriff

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - All four Limestone County judges are recused from the criminal case against Sheriff Mike Blakely. It will be up to the Alabama Supreme Court to appoint an out-of-town judge.

Blakely is facing a dozen felony charges and one misdemeanor charge related to how prosecutors say he abused his power. A grand jury indictment accuses the 10-term sheriff of stealing money from law enforcement, inmates, and campaign funds.

Blakely is still serving as sheriff but his future remains uncertain.

"It's so high profile," said Huntsville defense Attorney Nick Lough.  "You have someone who has been elected numerous times."

Lough told WHNT News 19 there's a variety of factors that will impact the outcome of Blakely's criminal case. He also believes it will take a while for the case to be resolved.

"There's a lot more than just what's at the face there. You have to prove a lot. You have to present a lot of evidence," said Lough. "The flip side of that is the defense is going to present defenses of those. You're going to battle basically 12, 13 different times depending on what's brought in front of a jury."

Lough said it's possible the indicted sheriff's case won't even make it to trial.

"You have dismissals sometimes. You have cases that are dismissed with certain conditions. You have plea agreements that are entered or you have trials," explained Lough.

Blakely's defense team has vowed to fight the constitutionality of the Alabama Ethics Act. That type of challenge is not unique to Blakely's case. Convicted former House Speaker Mike Hubbard's attorneys have previously argued that prosecutors use broad interpretations of state ethics laws.

"The attorneys follow the laws that the legislators write. And if a law is vague, it's not because the attorneys wrote it that way. It's because the legislature wrote it that way. And what the legislators intent is, is anybody's guess," said Lough.

Blakely is facing 12 felony charges, each carries a punishment of at least one year and as much as 20 years. If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison time and the judge could also impose a fine. State law would force him out of office if he is found guilty.

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