LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected former Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s appeal of his conviction on theft and ethics charges.
The opinion issued Friday rejected the defense’s claims that a mistrial should have been declared because prosecutors failed to review a key witness who was under criminal investigation. It also agreed with the trial court there was sufficient evidence to convict Blakely of theft.
Blakely was Alabama’s longest-serving sheriff, with 38 years in office, at the time of his conviction.
He was convicted on two counts and found not guilty on eight other counts in August 2021. Blakely was sentenced to three years in a county jail, but has been out on bond pending his appeal.
The defense had claimed a key prosecution witness, political consultant Trent Willis was under investigation by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, but prosecutors from the AG’s office failed to disclose that. The defense argued that was grounds for a mistrial.
The appeals court disagreed. The court wrote in its opinion the trial court could have reasonably concluded the defense knew about the investigation before the trial and the prosecutor’s failure to disclose did not justify relief. The appeals court also said, the trial court could have determined prosecutors had informed the defense, since there were disputed claims about it.
The court then wrote, “In any event, Blakely has not shown that had he been formally made aware of the investigation prior to trial he would have used a different strategy or that he was otherwise prejudiced in any way. As indicated above, Blakely appeared to know as much as or more than the State about the investigation into Willis.”
The court also found the jury did hear substantial evidence about Blakey’s practice of borrowing money from the Limestone County Jail’s inmate fund. Testimony showed Blakely would write checks, that he instructed jail personnel not to cash, while he borrowed the money.
The defense argued the money was always repaid, so there was no misuse of office. The appeals court disagreed.
“The amounts involved with the checks from Blakely were substantial, as were the lengths of time Blakely floated the checks,” the appeals court wrote. “A jury could reasonably have found that Blakely used the
inmates’ cash fund to obtain what were, in effect, interest-free loans, which allowed Blakely to avoid borrowing money from a legitimate source or from having an overdrawn personal bank account.
“The practice of borrowing funds from the inmates’ cash fund was not permissible, and
Blakely abused the practice. This evidence was sufficient for the jury to have concluded that Blakely acted with intent to use his public office to obtain personal gain.”
The Appeal Court’s full ruling can be read here.
News 19 reached out to Blakely’s defense attorney Robert Tuten who said that his team will be working all weekend to prepare a Motion for Rehearing. He added if that is denied then they will file a petition with the Alabama Supreme Court to hear the case and pursue the appeal there.