Ohio Attorney General's Office asks for suspension during criminal case

By STEVE ROBB Messenger staff journalistwriter/ via Associated Press Published:

ATHENS (AP) -- Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly has been involved in illegal activity during his entire tenure as sheriff, asserts a filing Tuesday from the Ohio Attorney General's Office that seeks Kelly's suspension from office while his criminal case is pending.

A special Athens County grand jury indicted Kelly on 25 counts last Friday, including 13 counts of theft in office. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Athens County Common Pleas Court. Kelly has denied he committed any illegal acts.

"The indictment charges that the criminal conduct Kelly undertook spans his entire tenure of holding the public office of Athens County sheriff," said a document signed by Assistant Attorney General James Roberts. "By taking campaign donations, Kelly began using his position for his own personal gain before even assuming office."

On Tuesday afternoon, Roberts filed a request with Chief Justice Maureen O'Conner of the Ohio Supreme Court that asked her to commence proceedings to suspend Kelly while the criminal case is pending.

After 14 days, O'Conner will have to appoint a three-judge commission to consider the suspension. The commission must make a preliminary determination about whether Kelly should be suspended. Kelly could contest that preliminary decision and meet with the commission, after which the commission would issue a final decision. In addition, Kelly was indicted on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, tampering with evidence, tampering with records, perjury, failure to keep a cash book and four other counts of theft, all felonies.

The allegations include:

• That on at least seven occasions, Kelly took county property, whether purchased or in control of the county by virtue of the function of the sheriff's office, to a local scrapyard and sold it for cash.

Only after Kelly was questioned about the last batch of scrap taken on May 11 did he deposit at least part of the money from that sale into the general fund, the document asserts.

• During his tenture as sheriff, Kelly "incrementally took" more than $4,000 in cash from the sheriff's office cash box.

• Throughout his tender as sheriff, Kelly used public funds for personal meal expenditures. "Kelly also has a continuous practice of wholly failing to document thousands of dollars of meal expenditures paid for with Athens County monies."

the document claims.

• After records were subpoenaed, Kelly "used his position as the person in charge of the office and in control of records to fabricate records that purport to, in part, justify expenditures as well as to conceal other records from investigators," the document claims.

"Next, Kelly made a materially false statement under oath to further conceal his activities," according to the filing.

• Kelly was indicted on a charge related to using his office to give at least one individual, with which he had a personal connection, a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm without conducting any background check.

In the document, Roberts makes arguments in favor of the suspension.

"This conduct, as well as additional conduct covered by charges not specifically discussed herein clearly and adversely affects the functioning of the sheriff's office," the document states. "With regard to the theft offenses alone, money that should have been available for legitimate law enforcement expenditures was diverted and unavailable."

According to the filing, it is an "open question under federal law" whether Kelly can carry a firearm while under indictment.

It is also argued that having a sheriff under indictment could impact other cases.

"If the credibility of the sheriff and the sheriff's office is called into question because the sitting sheriff is under indictment for multiple felonies, including perjury, this could cause serious issues in the administration of justice in Athens County," the document states.

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