LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Former Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely is once again asking for a new trial after his felony convictions in August 2021.
In a motion filed by Blakely’s lawyers on Monday they argue that during his theft and ethics trial state prosecutors did not prove Blakely acted with criminal intent and that the state hid the fact that one of the prosecution’s witnesses was under investigation for stealing from another political campaign at the time.
While he faced a total of 10 charges, Blakely was only found guilty of two Class B felonies – first-degree theft of property and use of official position for personal gain.
Blakely was found guilty of stealing $4,000 from his campaign account after paying a Huntsville consulting firm, Red Brick Strategies, owned by Trent Willis. The attorney general’s office said, Blakely had the campaign pay Red Brick Strategies $7,500 for a $3,500 bill, then deposited a $4,000 refund into his personal account.
At the time of the trial, Willis was under investigation by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office for work he did while serving as Representative Ritchie Whorton’s campaign manager. The defense says they were never told about the state’s investigation into Willis while prosecutors have said the defense was told a year before trial.
The motion argues, “The circuit court abused its discretion by failing to declare a mistrial on account of the State of Alabama’s failure to disclose to the defense that Trent Willis, a critical State’s witness, was under investigation despite repeated requests by the defense for disclosure of any pending investigations.”
Blakely was also found guilty of using his office for personal gain when he took money from the safe that held Limestone County Jail inmates’ funds. A jail clerk testified that sometimes Blakely would borrow money from the safe and she would write an IOU for the funds. She also said the sheriff would write a personal check for the money he took but sometimes asked her to wait to deposit the check.
The clerk also testified that the IOUs were not recorded in the accounting system so there would be times the money in the system and the money in the safe did not match. A special investigator at the AG’s office later testified that there were 19 checks the clerk held for the sheriff that would’ve bounced if they were cashed before Blakely told her it was OK to take them to the bank.
On this matter, the appeal argues, “The evidence clearly demonstrated that no inmate was ever deprived of his money and that no money was ever missing from the inmate fund.”
Blakely’s last attempt at getting a new trial was denied by Judge Baschab in September 2021. In that motion for a new trial, his lawyers said there were several errors made by the court including failing to grant a mistrial at least twice and closing the courtroom to the public as well as the media for almost two days.
With his felony convictions, Blakely was removed from his position as sheriff, a role he held for 38 years. He was sentenced to 36 months in jail for theft and ethics violations and remains out on a $50,000 bond until his appeal options run out.