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Pat Kelly and his defense attorney Scott Woods following Kelly being handcuffed and sentenced to 7 years in prison on March 20, 2015. (FILE)

Still guilty: Former Athens sheriff’s appeal of felony theft-in-office charges dismissed

Former Athens Sheriff Pat Kelly will remain in prison. In a decision filed Friday, the 4th District Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction for multiple counts of theft in office and other related charges.

On Feb. 12, 2015, a jury in the Athens Court of Common Pleas found Kelly guilty of 12 counts of theft in office, one count of perjury, one count of failure to keep a cashbook, three counts of theft and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, according to a previous Post report. Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Kelly to seven years in prison.

In his appeal, Kelly and Scott Wood, his attorney, argued the trial court had insufficient evidence to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of theft in office, failing to maintain a cashbook, perjury and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. He also argued the court erred in finding him guilty of criminal contempt and in instructing the jury during deliberations.

The appeals court affirmed the original guilty verdicts in all counts and dismissed his appeal of the criminal contempt conviction, according to court documents.

During his previous trial, Kelly was convicted of selling county property, including vehicles forfeited to the sheriff’s office, to McGee’s Auto Shop for scrap metal and keeping the money. A forensic accountant testified that $2,936.60 of the money Kelly received from scrap sales were not accounted for in any public fund, according to court documents.

Kelly also failed to document 56 meals totaling over $3,000 that he purchased with a sheriff’s office debit card, according to the forensic accountant’s testimony. Some of those meals took place on Sundays and included kids meals, which the appeals court said suggested they had no actual law enforcement purpose.

The appeals court found this evidence provided sufficient proof of theft in office, according to court documents.

Kelly argued in his previous trial that he had spent the money on two confidential informants, who he refused to name and claimed were both dead. In light of a lack of evidence to support those statements, the appeals court found that “the jury could weigh the evidence and reasonably infer that he stole the proceeds for his own personal use.”

According to court documents, Kelly also deposited campaign donations into his and his wife’s bank accounts instead of his campaign fund and instructed his campaign manager to address a check to him instead of his campaign fund, later cashing the check himself. The court of appeals found there was sufficient evidence to affirm that theft conviction.

Kelly’s appeal stated the prosecution in his previous trial incorrectly argued that sheriffs must maintain cashbooks documenting expenses in physical form, while sheriffs can legally keep cashbooks in digital form. The appeals court found that the prosecution did not, and that the jury had reason to assume Kelly failed to keep a cashbook “because he wanted to avoid a paper trail.”

The court of appeals also found there was sufficient evidence Kelly committed perjury during his 2015 trial, when Kelly failed to provide documents in response to a subpoena. Kelly argued in his appeal he had not committed perjury, stating that he only claimed he’d provided all of the documents “to the best of his knowledge.”

Kelly had falsely testified that he provided all the documents two other times, once saying, “All the files that I have are right there,” the appeals court found.

“The jury could have reasonably inferred that … in spite of being warned by the court not to have surprise documents ‘magically appear’ later, Kelly intended to do just that,” the judgement entry stated.

The appeals court dismissed Kelly’s appeal of a criminal contempt of court conviction for violating a gag order during his trial because his wife had already paid the fine, which resolved the matter.

Kelly is currently incarcerated at Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction website. If he still wishes to pursue his case, he now has the option to file an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court.


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