LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. — Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely is asking an Alabama appeals court to overrule the trial judge and delay his scheduled March 9 trial on theft and ethics charges.
The writ of mandamus seeks a court order from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals directing the trial judge to overrule his earlier decision denying Blakely’s request for a continuance. Blakely’s team asked the court to delay his trial for a month while his lead attorney recovers from surgery.
Generally, the filing of such a motion requires the trial court to stop its proceedings pending an order from the appeals court.
Blakely was in court Wednesday as his defense team sought information from prosecutors — the case is being prosecuted by the Alabama Attorney General’s office — about any deals they made with witnesses and informants.
After an investigation conducted by the defense, Blakely’s attorneys said they believe one witness has been investigated by the attorney general’s office since March of 2019. They believe another witness has been indicted and say both of these cases are pending in Limestone County.
The prosecution told the judge no offers of inducement or promises have been made. After a short back and forth between the defense and prosecution, the judge asked the attorneys to resolve this matter privately in another room.
After the hearing, defense attorney Marcus Helstowski told reporters that they were able to come to an agreement that the prosecution would provide information on a couple of specific witnesses and they would provide information about any deals to witnesses who have been subpoenaed to testify.
Helstowski says he believes a crucial witness in the case could be under investigation or have a case pending against them. “I think that at least one of them is extremely crucial because he’s the main witness in regards to one count of the indictment. So he is a very important witness.”
Monday, the judge denied a motion filed by Blakely’s attorneys to continue the trial for 30 days.
In response, Blakely’s attorneys filed a writ of mandamus in the Alabama Court of Appeals to review the judge’s order denying their motion to continue.
The appeal states defense attorney Robert Tuten’s request to delay the trial for medical reasons stems from a wreck late last year. Tuten was hit from behind while at a red light, according to the writ filed Wednesday.
Tuten had complications from the wreck that resulted in him having to undergo surgery that left him with a much longer recovery time than doctors originally anticipated, the appeal states. The judge’s ruling denying a delay in the trial deprives Blakely of his Constitutional right to choose his counsel, according to his attorneys.
The trial is currently scheduled to begin on March 9.
State prosecutors denied a request for comment.
Blakely was indicted in August of 2019 on theft and ethics charges, including stealing from his office and from his sheriff campaign account. Blakely has contended that the ethics law he was indicted under is unconstitutionally vague.
Blakely has served as sheriff in Limestone County for 36 years.