ATHENS, Ala. – Sheriff Mike Blakley, the longest-serving sheriff in Alabama, took the stand on Thursday.
Blakely is charged with theft and ethics crimes related to his use of department money and campaign funds.
Sheriff Blakely was sworn in on the stand at 9 a.m. His recollection of some of the crimes he’s accused of committing differ from witness testimony.
For starters, the sheriff said some of the times he deposited campaign funds into his personal account were due to his campaign treasurer living hours away and encouraging him to go ahead and deposit the money for campaign expense reimbursement.
A lot of ground was covered prior to lunch, including Blakely’s dealings with Red Brick Strategies. The sheriff said on the stand that a friend of his offered to pay the firm for his campaign services. Towards the end of the election, he received a $4000 check from Red Brick.
Blakely said it was because the firm didn’t have the expenditures it thought it would.
As far as the 2014 and 2015 trips to Vegas, Blakely said he attended courses at the conferences but did gamble in his free time stating, “I was in Las Vegas.”
The defense asking whether gambling is one of the sheriff’s hobbies. He answered only, “I guess.”
Blakely explained in 2016 he never planned to attend a county commissioner’s conference in Orange Beach.
Instead a commissioner signed him up for the golf tournament there. He went and played.
Blakely testified that they ended up in Biloxi at another casino and resort because they had comped rooms and golf games. Blakely said the Biloxi trip was at no expense of Limestone County.
The defense argues there was no intent and therefore no crime.
The state began their cross-examination of Sheriff Blakely before breaking for lunch. After the break, they asked him about several deposits he made and the sale of his parent’s house.
Sheriff Blakely was excused from the stand after a short break.
The defense called four additional witnesses to the stand, all said that Blakely was a good and honest man.
The defense rested their case just before 3 p.m Thursday. They also moved for a verdict of acquittal, saying the state has not proven all the necessary elements for a conviction.
The judge denied that motion and released the jury for the day.
Closing arguments will start Friday morning at 9 a.m.
App users, tap here to follow the live blog of Thursday’s proceedings.