LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – The judge in Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s upcoming trial has ordered to seal the case.
Saturday afternoon the judge ordered that all future motions – pleadings and arguments in the case – be filed under seal until further orders from the court.
This means that the public will not be able to see any progress made in the case until the court hands down scheduling orders.
The unusual move comes from Judge Pride Thompkins, a retired judge appointed to this case because all Limestone County judges recused themselves.
Thompkins did not offer any reason for sealing the case of an elected official.
Blakely is facing 11 counts of theft and misuse of power for personal gain. He is still serving as the sheriff pending the outcome of the trial.
On Friday, Blakely’s attorneys asked the judge to continue the case due to his counsel not having adequate time to prepare for the trial. The judge denied that motion.
This wasn’t the first time Blakely’s attorneys tried to push back the trial date. Last month, Blakely’s attorneys filed a motion to continue the trial for 30 days. In that motion, they said Blakely’s lead counsel, Robert Tuten, was recovering from surgery and the recovery was taking longer than expected. Judge Thompkins denied that motion. Blakely’s attorneys asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to overrule the judge’s order – a request that was denied.
A few hours later on Friday, Blakely’s attorneys filed another motion asking the judge to continue the trial due to Blakely’s health. The motion stated Blakely was suffering from respiratory failure and was tested for COVID-19.
At an emergency hearing Saturday morning, a doctor from Athens-Limestone Hospital told the judge, Blakely had been tested for other strains of the coronavirus, not COVID-19. Those tests came back negative.
The doctor stated Blakely was admitted to the hospital and did not think Blakely would be discharged in time for his Monday trial.
Judge Thompkins criticized the defense, saying the motion was irresponsibly written in regards to mentioning COVID-19 since the motion is a public document and there is a lot of concern surrounding the virus.
Thompkins ordered that the case be continued for one week. Afterward, he ordered to seal the case.