Suspended Athens County Sheriff Patrick "Pat" Kelly will take the stand to defend himself in his public-corruption trial, his lawyer told jurors this morning.
Scott Wood asked jurors to be patient and keep an open mind.
"You will not hear from the sheriff until the end of this trial," which could be in two weeks, Wood said in his opening statement.
"Keep an open mind until you hear what Sheriff Kelly has to say.
"Although Sheriff Kelly is not a perfect person and he made mistakes, he is not a criminal."
State special prosecutor James C. Roberts told jurors that the evidence will show that Kelly is, in fact, a criminal who used his position as sheriff to misspend public money.
"This is a case about public corruption and greed," said Roberts, an assistant attorney general.
"An elected law-enforcement official sworn to uphold the law is also required to follow the law."
Kelly’s campaign manager, Clinton Stanley, will testify against him in exchange for immunity from prosecution, state special prosecutor Melissa A. Schiffel told prospective jurors yesterday.
A jury of 10 women and two men was seated yesterday after Schiffel, an assistant attorney general in Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, and defense attorney Scott Wood finished questioning potential jurors. Four men and one woman also were selected as alternate jurors.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to a 25-count indictment. Conviction on the first-degree felony of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity is punishable by a maximum of 11 years imprisonment.
Prosecutors say Kelly used his office to misspend public money, pocket cash from selling county vehicles for scrap and illegally convert campaign donations to personal use.
He also is accused of destroying 9.3 tons of public records in a landfill – six dump truck loads, Roberts said -- and falsifying other records in attempts to thwart the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s probe into his activities.
Roberts laid out for jurors this morning what the evidence will include:
Kelly illegally converted more than $1,600 in campaign donations to personal use on 13 occasions. One time, Roberts said, after a donor had given $500 to the sheriff’s campaign manager, Kelly told Stanley to cut a check in that amount and rather than make it out to his campaign, to make it out to Pat Kelly personally. The check was cashed and never made it to the campaign fund, Roberts said.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence will show this is money laundering," he said.
Kelly pocketed about $3,000 from illegally selling county vehicles to a salvage yard for scrap, and misspent more than $7,000 in public money from his Furtherance of Justice funds on restaurant meals, Roberts said.
Kelly’s attorney told jurors that Furtherance of Justice funds allow for wide discretion in how they are spent.
Kelly also spent $600 in FOJ money on suits he bought from Men’s Wearhouse, but later repaid the money after he was told by his employees and by Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, that it was not a proper expense, Roberts said.
Kelly’s campaign manager is among several-dozen witnesses expected to be called to the stand by prosecutors.
They include Pearl "Soupy" Graham, who was not charged but was named in the indictment as an accomplice who helped Kelly sell county vehicles to a local salvage yard and shared in the proceeds.
They also include county Commissioners Charlie Adkins and Lenny Eliason, county Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, county Auditor Jill Thompson, and former sheriff Vern Castle and former prosecutor Dave Warren.
Kelly, a 64-year-old Democrat who was re-elected to a second, four-year term in 2012, has been on paid suspension from the $69,372-a-year job since shortly after being indicted.
Besides corrupt activity, he also is charged with 13 counts of theft in office and four counts of theft, and single counts of money laundering, tampering with evidence, tampering with records, perjury and failure to keep a cashbook.
He also is charged with the misdemeanor offenses of obstructing official business and dereliction of duty.
Visiting Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove ordered Twitter users not to "live tweet" from the courtroom during proceedings, although they may during breaks.
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