LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Former Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely, who was convicted on theft and ethics charges last year, was denied a rehearing by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday.
Court records simply state Blakely’s application for another hearing was “overruled.”
Blakely’s initial appeal was denied by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in September, then he petitioned for a rehearing on November 1.
In his petition for a rehearing, the former sheriff’s attorneys asserted the court should “withdraw its previous opinion and reconsider Mr. Blakely’s convictions” for a number of reasons.
Blakely can still appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.
The filing says the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals “determined the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mr. Blakely’s motion for a mistrial after the State failed to provide [Blakely] with critical evidence regarding one of the State’s witnesses.”
The defense says the State waited until the cross-examination step to reveal they were investigating a “critical witness” — Trent Willis — for other crimes, and argued it was grounds for a mistrial.
In the filing, the defense says, “While Mr. Blakely may have known of the investigation into Willis prior to trial, this bare knowledge did not provide [him] with the sort of detailed knowledge necessary to properly prepare for and challenge Willis’s credibility as a witness.”
The defense also argues the court should have granted its motion for acquittal on the ethics charge of Blakely using his office for personal gain. They say there was no evidence any money was stolen from prisoner accounts, and that Blakely paid everything back.
“Nothing but supposition and fantasy allow the inference that Mr. Blakely borrowed money from the inmate fund with any intent to benefit himself,” the defense argued in Friday’s filing. “While the practice may be problematic and questionable, there was no evidence presented — circumstantial or direct — that showed Mr. Blakely used this practice as a means to benefit himself.”
The defense says those reasons warranted another chance to appeal the conviction.
The appeals court ruled in September that Blakely’s lawyers had time to cross-examine the key witness, and it said a jury could’ve reasonably found that Blakely got essentially interest-free loans through the inmate funds.
Blakely was Alabama’s longest-serving sheriff when he was found guilty in 2021 for converting campaign funds to personal use. He was also convicted of using his office for personal gain, by borrowing money from inmate accounts at the Limestone County Jail, and sometimes, waiting months to repay that money.
Blakely was sentenced to three years in a county jail, and is currently free on bond, pending his appeal.