Sheriff Mike Blakely’s criminal trial delayed due to his hospitalization

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – The judge in Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s criminal trial delayed the start of the trial a week, after a doctor testified Saturday that the sheriff likely wouldn’t be released from the hospital by the scheduled Monday start date.

A doctor at the hospital where Blakely was admitted Friday said in court Saturday she didn’t believe he would be discharged in time for his theft and ethics trial to start Monday.

As a result, Judge Pride Tompkins said jurors would come in Monday, when they would be divided into panels and then told to come back a week later for the trial.

Prosecutors and Blakely’s defense met Saturday morning at the Limestone County Courthouse to discuss Blakely’s condition. The sheriff’s attorneys claimed Friday afternoon that he was in the hospital with acute respiratory failure and asthma. The motion also stated he was being tested for COVID-19.

Dr. Maria Onoya from Athens-Limestone Hospital said in court Saturday that Blakely actually was not tested for COVID-19 because he was not a candidate for the disease. She said Blakely was tested for four coronaviruses and all tests came back negative.

But Blakely did have acute respiratory issues and was receiving oxygen, Dr. Onoya said. She said with that on top of his other health issues, she did not believe the sheriff would be discharged Sunday or Monday.

Blakely’s criminal trial was set to begin Monday in Limestone County. Prior to his hospitalization, he had tried to have the case delayed on the grounds that his lead attorney, Robert Tuten, was recovering from a medical procedure. Judge Tompkins struck down that request; the state Court of Criminal Appeals upheld that ruling.

Judge Tompkins dismissed two of the counts against Blakely Friday, at the request of prosecutors.

He still faces 11 counts of theft and using his office for personal gain.

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