Blakely trial continues into day 9

Athens

ATHENS, Ala. – The public corruption trial of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely continued Thursday morning.

Much of Wednesday’s questions focused on the several conferences Sheriff Blakely took with others in the department to Las Vegas in 2014 and 2015 and Gulf Shores in 2016.

Thursday morning’s testimony was focused on a side trip Sheriff Blakely took to Biloxi during a county commissioner’s annual conference in August 2016 in Orange Beach.

A few things stood out. Casino records show Blakely making multiple withdrawals for chips, apparently to play Mississippi stud poker, including a $10,000 chip purchase around 3 a.m. one of those nights.

A casino corporate employee testified that the record shows Blakely bought about $20,000 in chips during a two-night stay and ultimately cashed in $1000 worth.

A prosecutor says it was during that run that he got a $1000 wire transfer from the sheriff’s office.

The defense counter included a dramatic claim that Blakely had won the lottery a month earlier to the tune of $975,000 and he had plenty of cash to spend as he wanted to.

Another issue that stood out was when the defense started the day with a claim of witness intimidation by investigators associated with the prosecution.

Sheriff’s office employee Jeff Kilpatrick told the court Thursday morning those investigators approached him and said they heard he’s been told to lie on the stand. Kilpatrick said he felt intimidated and denied anyone had asked him to lie on Blakely’s behalf.

Judge Baschab said she will take up the witness intimidation issue later.

Thursday afternoon, lawyers for Sheriff Blakely were able to point out that a state audit covering 2014 and 2015, found no missing money and no irregularities. That follows the defense’s theme through the trial so far, that no money is missing.

The audit discussion came during testimony from a supervisor with the Alabama Department of Public Examiners, Kathy Wren, that was notable for its painstaking detail.

Prosecutors tried to highlight the limits of the audit process, getting Wren to acknowledge they do an overview for a given two-year period, but only focus closely on two random months, because of time and staffing issues.

While the state worked to show money taken by the sheriff from the inmate fund may not show up in the audit, the defense was able to introduce an audit into the record, showing clean books.

The trial will resume on Friday.

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