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Limestone County sheriff arrested on theft, ethics charges

August 22, 2019
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This booking photograph released by the Limestone Sheriff's Office shows Sheriff Mike Blakely following his arrest on theft and ethics charges on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Blakely, who has been sheriff of the north Alabama county since 1983, was booked into his own jail and later released on $49,000 bail. (AP Photo/Limestone County Sheriff's Office)
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This booking photograph released by the Limestone Sheriff's Office shows Sheriff Mike Blakely following his arrest on theft and ethics charges on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Blakely, who has been sheriff of the north Alabama county since 1983, was booked into his own jail and later released on $49,000 bail. (AP Photo/Limestone County Sheriff's Office)

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely was arrested Thursday on theft and ethics charges that include accusations of taking money from campaign and law enforcement accounts.

Blakely, who has been sheriff of the north Alabama county since 1983, was booked into his own jail Thursday. He was later released on $49,000 bail.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said a grand jury indicted Blakely on 13 charges. The office said the charges include taking money from campaign and law enforcement funds and using his position to get interest-free loans. He allegedly took money from a safe that was used to store the Limestone County inmates’ personal funds.

“Public officials are entrusted to perform their duties honestly and above reproach. When that bond of trust is broken, our society suffers undue harm,” Marshall said in a statement. My office — working with our federal and state partners — is committed to ensuring that the violators of the public trust be held accountable under the law,” Marshall said.

Court records were not immediately available to show details of the charges.

Attorney Mark McDaniel, who represents Blakely, said the sheriff will plead not guilty, noting he has served the people of the county and state for many years.

“We look forward to trying this case in front of a jury there. All the facts will come out. Both sides. And we know justice will be done,” McDaniel told The Associated Press.

McDaniel said he could not discuss specifics of the case. He said one motion they will file is to challenge the constitutionality of the “overly broad” state ethics law.

The attorney general’s office said Blakely faces:

— Four counts of theft from his campaign account totaling $11,000.

— Six counts of theft or ethics charges stemming from his taking money from Limestone County funds, including from the Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Fund.

—One count of soliciting a $1,000 wire transfer from a subordinate.

—Two counts of using his official position or office to acquire interest-free loans, in the form of a $50,000 cashier’s check and/or a $22,189.68 credit. One charge alleges that he obtained the interest-free loan by taking money from a safe that was used to store the Limestone County inmates’ personal funds.

The Limestone County sheriff’s office held a press conference after the charges were announced and said Blakely is back at work.

A representative of the office said he could not discuss the casel.

The Alabama Ethics Commission in October referred a complaint against Blakely to state investigators, Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton said.

This is the latest legal entanglement for an Alabama lawman.

Former Pickens County sheriff David Abston pleaded guilty last month to wire fraud and filing a false tax return after being accused of scamming a food bank and church and pocketing leftover money meant for feeding inmates.

Pickens County Chief Deputy Jonathan Gann was arrested this month on charges of second-degree theft and misdemeanor evidence-tampering.

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