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Athens County Sheriff Indicted on Multiple Felony Counts
ATHENS, Ohio (Kate Liebers) -- An Athens County Sheriff was charged with theft in office, corruption, money laundering and several other felonies, the Ohio Attorney General's Office announced Friday.
Sheriff Patrick Kelly, 63, was charged with 25 counts, 23 of which are felonies.
The charges include engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony; money laundering, tampering with evidence, tampering with records, and perjury, which are all third-degree felonies;
three fourth-degree felony counts and ten fifth-degree felony counts of theft in office; and four fifth-degree felony counts of theft.
He was also charged with failure to keep a cashbook, an unclassified felony; as well as obstructing official business and dereliction of duty, both second-degree misdemeanors.
Attorney General Mike DeWine stated that, as required by law, his office would ask the Ohio Supreme Court initiate proceedings for Kelly's suspension, as he is a local official charged with a felony related to official conduct.
DeWine's statement reportedly follows an investigation requested by Athens County Prosecutor Keller J. Blackburn.
At the time of the investigation, Kelly was suspected of, among other allegations, disposing county records as well as a state audit finding.
According to the state auditor's office, audit findings from 2011 and 2012 suggested that Kelly had improperly paid for personal clothing, meals and party supplies using public funds.
Additional potential crimes were discovered during that investigation, according to the prosecutor.
"This indictment shows that no one is above the law," Auditor Dave Yost stated in a release.
Around 4 p.m. Friday, a post published on the Athens County Sheriff's Office Facebook page maintained the sheriff's innocence.
"...I will not step down as your sheriff and will continue with the same strong leadership and professionalism I have served you with for the past five years....I have not committed or attempted to commit a criminal act nor have any of my employees."
The post's author accused the attorney general's office of having an "obsession with following a political agenda" that clouded the facts of the investigation.
The post concludes with promise to follow through with the trial.
"After two years of accusations and suppositions in an attempt to overturn the results of this past election, in which which (sic) the majority of Athens a County voters cast their confidence in me, we will discuss this injustice in a court setting where the facts will be presented."
The prosecutor's office announced that it would not be involved with Kelly's prosecution and will assist only if requested by the attorney general's office.
"This office has maintained independence from the investigation and will not comment publically regarding Pat Kelly until the conclusion of the criminal matter," Blackburn stated in a release.
He also stated that formal charges arising from the "cloud of allegations" means it is "time for the rest of Athens County to move forward from these illegalities and heal the reputation of law enforcement."