Alabama sheriff facing theft, ethics charges wants his drinking, gambling past kept secret

Published 9:56 am Friday, February 21, 2020

A longtime Alabama sheriff is trying to prevent jurors in his upcoming theft trial from hearing about his gambling and drinking practices.

Lawyers for Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely have asked a judge to block prosecutors from using such evidence, The Decatur Daily reported Friday.

But prosecutors say Blakely made gambling part of the case by his trips to casinos, and jurors should hear the evidence. They also say they can’t control whether witnesses talk about alcohol consumption.

Blakely, 69, was indicted last year on multiple theft and ethics charges but remains in office. He pleaded not guilty and his trial is set for March 9, but a hearing on a defense request to delay the trial is set for Monday.

Blakely’s lawyers asked to exclude evidence in court documents filed under seal last month, the newspaper reported, and a response filed Wednesday by the state referenced the contents.

In a brief, Assistant Attorney General Kyle Beckman said Blakely shouldn’t be allowed to exclude evidence on gambling because the sheriff made gambling a part of the prosecution’s case by his actions.

“Blakely did that when he solicited wire transfers of cash between gambling sessions in Las Vegas and Biloxi while he was on official travel for the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office,” Beckman wrote.

Blakely “picked the scene of the crimes,” Beckman said. While prosecutors don’t plan to make alcohol consumption part of the case, Beckman wrote, the prosecution “has limited control over whether any of its witnesses mention drinking.”

Grand jurors indicted Blakely on 12 felony counts and one misdemeanor alleging he stole campaign donations, used his job to obtain interest-free loans and solicited money from employees. He has been sheriff of the north Alabama county for about 36 years.