Alabama prosecutors respond to Sheriff Blakely: ‘Nothing vague’ in law about stealing from office

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. -- The state of Alabama has responded to Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s efforts to have his indictment dismissed, arguing “there is nothing vague about prohibitions against using your official position to steal money.”

The Monday filing was a reply to Blakely’s lawyers arguments that the theft and ethics violations case against the sheriff was based on the "unconstitutionally vague” Alabama Ethics Act.

Blakely, who has been the sheriff in Limestone County for 36 years, was indicted in August on 13 theft and ethics charges. The charges include stealing from the office and using his office or position for personal gain.

The case was brought by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, which filed Monday’s response.

“This Court should deny Defendant Blakely’s ‘tried-and-failed’ motion because the Ethics Act has been upheld multiple times in multiple courts; because there is nothing vague about prohibitions against using your official position to steal money or soliciting money from subordinates; because the Ethics Laws are not overbroad; and because the Rule of Lenity does not apply to a sheriff who has been enforcing the law for 36 years and now claims the law cannot be understood,” the AG’s office argued.

The ”Rule of Lenity” is generally defined as requiring a court to view any part of a law that is unclear or ambiguous in a manner most favorable to the defendant.

In the defense filing last month, Blakely’s lawyers argued the charges are too vague to be valid. The filing cited a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision which found, “a conviction fails to comport with due process if the statute under which it is obtained fails to provide a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited ..."

The filing further argues, " ... the Defendant is charged in counts 7, 8, 10, 12 and 13 with using his official position or office for personal gain in violation of §36-25-5(a). Nowhere in the statute does it specify what conduct is prohibited. Nor does it specifically explain the term 'using' or 'personal gain.'"

The 13 charges cover conduct over multiple years, according to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Blakely is due to be arraigned Nov. 12.

 

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