Attorney General asks for dismissal of Mike Blakely’s Rule 32 petition
LIMESTONE CO., Ala. (WAFF) - The Alabama Attorney General has responded to the Rule 32 petition of former Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely.
Blakely filed the Rule 32 petition on the same day that he started serving his three-year sentence in the Franklin County Jail, Feb. 24. The over 100-page Rule 32 petition claimed his conviction was “obtained by (a) judge not authorized to practice law in the State of Alabama. This was unknown until after the trial concluded.”
In 2021 he was found guilty on two charges: Theft of Property 1st Degree (Count 2) and Use of an Official Position or Office for Personal Gain (Count 13). In Aug. 2021, Blakely was sentenced to three years in jail.
Blakely’s attorneys filed appeals of the conviction after the trial when they learned that the judge who had sentenced him, Judge Pamela Baschub, had an expired license. Each of his appeals was denied.
In his Rule 32 petition, Blakely made three claims:
1. Alleges that the state or federal constitution entitles him to a new trial or new sentencing
2. Alleges that the court was without jurisdiction to render judgment or impose a sentence
3. Alleges that there are newly discovered material facts that require that the conviction be vacated
On Aug. 23, 2019, Blakely was arrested and indicted on 13 theft and ethics charges, two of those charges were dropped before the trial started in 2021.
The answer and motion from the Attorney dived deeper into the charges Blakely faced and addresses the facts involving Blakely’s convictions and the qualifications of Judge Bashub.
Count 2: Theft of Property - 1st Degree
The motion states Blakely stole $4,000 from the Friends of Mile Blakely campaign account.
The campaign hired Red Brick Strategies to assist Blakely’s re-election effort. Attorney John Plunk agreed to pay Red Brick Strategies, a campaign consultant company run by Trent Willis, on Blakely’s behalf. The price was $3,500 each month for six months leading up to the November 2014 election.
Willis said everything went as planned until the final month after the election. For the final month, Willis sent Plunk the final invoice but he did not pay it. Instead, Blakely called Willis and said that he needed to use this campaign account to pay the last bill.
When Blakely gave Willis a campaign check it was not for $3,500 it was for $7,500 and was dated Nov. 14. Blakely asked Willis to leave a signed blank check drawn on Red Brick’s account. Willis signed the check and Blakely then wrote his own name and an amount of $4,000. The date on this check was also Nov. 14.
Blakely later asked him to send a revised invoice directly to his campaign for $7,500, Willis did this on Nov. 15, the next day. At the time Willis did not know that Blakely deposited the $4,000 in his personal account and that he would have overdrawn that account by more than $1,500.
Blakely filed a false campaign report that read that his campaign paid Red Brick Strategies $7,500 but he actually paid them $3,500 and the remainder ($4,000) went to his bank account.
He defended his actions when he testified that he had a surplus in his campaign account and that he informed Plunk that he would pay the final invoices for October and November. Blakely stated that it was not until after he sent the $7,500 check that Willis told him that he was “getting a rebate back.”
Blakely claimed that the check did “in fact” go to Red Brick “way before the 14th” and claimed he told his treasurer, Thomas Watkins, that he was putting money in his personal account because he was concerned that the check would no longer be good if he waited until he saw his treasurer again. Watkins testified that he never had a conversation with Blakely about the $4,000 check from Red Brick.
The State submitted evidence that Plunk paid the October invoice on Oct, 14 just two days after he received it. This trumped Blakely’s claim that the $7,500 check was written “way before the 14th” because the State proved that the preceding check number from that account was dated Nov. 13.
Count 13: Use of Official Position or Office for Personal Gain
Blakely’s office was down the hall from the Limestone County jail-accountant clerk, Ramona Robinson. In her office, there was a safe that held the money belonging to inmates (the money on an inmate’s person when they were booked or cash/money orders dropped off by inmate family/friends) and held between $3,000 to $12,000.
Inmates were allowed to only have $1 bills. This required Robinson to go to the bank 2-3 times a week to exchange larger bills for $1 bills. Twice a week inmates were allowed $40 from the safe (this was for snacks, drinks, etc.) this required Robinson to have $1,500 to $2,200 in $1 bills.
Robinson tracked the balance with a QuickBooks account that she regularly updated. Robinson said that Blakely regularly took $300 to $600 from the safe, this made her always have “money for the sheriff.”
She stated that on rare occasions she and other employees cashed checks out of the safe in amounts of $10 - $40. She always took those checks to the bank on her next visit. She said this was different with Blakely as he collected 13x - 15x as much money from the safe but instead of replacing the money Blakely would tell Robinson to put an “IOU” in the safe with his dispatch call sign.
He did this often, sometimes she had multiple IOUs in the safe(these were NOT documented in the QuickBooks account). Instead, she gave him “credit” for his withdrawals so that the QuickBooks numbers added up. Eventually, Blakely would bring a personal check but Robinson did not take it to the bank immediately because “The Sheriff asked me to hold the check.”
Her reasoning for complying was that she was worried about what would happen to her job if his check bounced. She would either way for his say-so or ask permission. This was one of the reasons why she left the job after being there for 13 years.
In evidence Blakely wrote 19 checks totaling $29,950, Robinson held these checks for a combined 271 days.
In this closing argument of the answer and motion, the state deemed all of Blakley’s claims to be insufficiently pleased, factually and legally meritless and could have been raised during trial and raised on appeal.
**EVERYTHING REPORTED IS STRICTLY FROM THE STATE OF ALABAMA’S ANSWER AND MOTION TO DISMISS THE RULE 32 PETITION**
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