Blakely trial ends second week

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ATHENS, Ala. — Mike Blakely, Alabama’s longest-serving sheriff, has sat through five days of the prosecution attempting to persuade jurors that he misused his office and stole campaign funds.

Blakely is accused of taking campaign funds and putting them in his personal account.

Friday’s testimony focused heavily on finance with check records, receipts, and casino cage withdrawals taking center stage.

Two colorful witnesses talked about a real estate deal and loans made to Blakely in 2015. The prosecution argued Blakely was in financial trouble and needed the loans and to sell his parents’ home to get out of that trouble.

Realtor and former deputy Brad Pullum says he worked on the sale, as well as a number of schemes, including one involving a plan to try and sell silencers and a submarine to the government of Taiwan.

Pullum said Blakely told him he needed the money because his behind was “in a sling.”

Pullum loaned Blakely $22,000 to pay off a note on the home while his listed business partner, Tong Shen Chiou, loaned the sheriff $50,000. The men were paid back with $68,000 from the home sale.

Chiou stated he did not know Blakely and only loaned the money because of Pullum’s recommendation; however, the prosecution pointed out that Chiou received a pistol permit from Blakely days before the loan went through.

Chiou says that process began before he ever met the sheriff.

After lunch, five witnesses were called, all related to Venture Higo, LLC or the renovation work and labor done on the Higo headquarters.

A retired pharmacist said he fronted almost $750,000 for Higo Ventures, and the company did nothing. He also said he loaned Blakely $50,000 by way of Blakely’s realtor – before they had ever even met.

The state argues that money was used to pay a debt Blakely owed after borrowing money to pay back his salary overpayment.

Later, jurors heard from Rodney Jackson, who is currently under indictment for allegedly stealing from three of his elderly family members, and did financial work for Higo.

Jackson called Blakely his mentor.

He was also in charge of supervising and paying the inmate laborers Blakely let work on the Higo renovations.

The court also heard from one of the inmate laborers about his experience, he is one of the three inmates Blakely allowed to work for Higo.

The last witness of the day was Bill Daws, a former director of work release programs for the Limestone County Jail. Daws shared his account of the agreement between Sherif Blakely, Higo and the inmates for their labor.

The state has attempted to show Blakely misused Sheriff’s Office monies to fund what amounts to gambling trips, but the defense has pushed back.

Images of financial documents were placed on a big screen and discussed.

The defense currently states that evidence shows that these checks were repaid. Blakely’s defense also scored this week showing a state audit from 2014-15 with no missing money or outstanding issues in the Sheriff’s Office books.

After the jury was dismissed Friday, the judge took time to discuss a matter that came up earlier in the morning, regarding some records the state says they never received but were produced by a witness in the case during cross-examination.

The judge has agreed to resume court on Monday at 1 p.m. to accommodate that matter.

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