Trial of Alabama sheriff paused amid questions about witness

Published 1:33 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A judge delayed the theft and ethics trial of a north Alabama sheriff after prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office presented testimony from a witness who also is under investigation.

Judge Pamela Baschab told lawyers from both sides in the trial of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely to return to court Tuesday after filing legal briefs with their positions about the use of the witness, Trent Willis, news outlets reported.

Willis, a political consultant whose firm Red Brick Strategies worked for Blakely’s campaign in 2014, testified that an Athens attorney agreed to pay the $3,500 monthly charge to Red Brick on behalf of Blakely’s campaign.

After getting checks from the lawyer for months, Red Brick received a $7,500 check from Blakely’s campaign account, evidence showed. Blakely later deposited a $4,000 refund check from Red Brick Strategies into his personal bank account, according to prosecutors, rather than sending the money to his campaign account.

Before the defense could begin cross examination, Deputy Attorney General Clark Morris told Baschab that Willis himself was under investigation. A defense lawyer said Willis was being reviewed in the theft of $100,000 from a campaign account of a state lawmaker, state Rep. Richie Whorton.

Baschab denied a defense request for a mistrial but told the prosecution and defense to file motions about Willis’ testimony before the trial resumed.

Blakely, 70, has continued serving as sheriff since being indicted in 2019 on multiple charges. He would automatically be removed from office with a felony conviction.