Prosecutors: Sheriff Blakely wants gambling evidence withheld

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – Prosecutors in Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s theft and ethics case say Blakely made gambling part of his case when he solicited money from sheriff’s office employees between gambling sessions while on official sheriff’s office travel.

That motion was filed Wednesday. Today, the judge in the case set a hearing for Monday, Feb. 24, on a defense motion to continue the case from its current trial date of March. The order does not indicate why the defense is seeking the continuance, but it does say the court will consider the motion and the state’s response in the Monday morning hearing.

The prosecution motion on gambling was part of a response filed Wednesday to a motion from Blakely’s defense team asking for evidence of his “gambling and drinking practices” to be excluded from his trial.

Blakely’s motion was filed under seal, but prosecutors filed their response publicly in Limestone County Circuit Court, stating the court denied Blakely’s request to seal certain pretrial motions.

Blakely faces 13 theft and ethics charges that accuse him of stealing from his campaign account and Limestone County funds, as well as soliciting money from employees and using his official position to get interest-free loans.

In prosecutors’ court documents filed Wednesday, they say Blakely claimed his gambling and drinking practices are not relevant to his charges. But they contend Blakely made gambling a part of their case by soliciting wire transfers of cash between from his employees in between gambling sessions in Las Vegas and Biloxi. At the time, prosecutors said Blakely was on official travel for work.

“Evidence that Blakely was gambling before and after he picked up cash from Western Union is plainly relevant,” the response states. “Among other permissible purposes, it goes to Blakely’s intent in soliciting the money.”

Prosecutors said Blakely’s motion to exclude does not give a good reason for the case and only asserts “he is a ten-term sheriff with a criminal case being followed closely by the media,” which prosecutors said isn’t a reason to exclude relevant evidence.

As to the drinking mentioned in the motion, prosecutors said they don’t expect it to be a significant part of their case, but that their witnesses are more closely aligned with Blakely than the state.

“Because of this, the State has limited control over whether any of its witnesses mention drinking,” the motion states. “And as with gambling, the State did not pick these facts; Blakely did.”

The judge had not ruled on the motion as of Thursday morning.

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