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Employees testify about loaning money to sheriff on trial

July 22, 2021 GMT

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — A clerk who works for an Alabama sheriff on trial on corruption charges testified she sent him $1,000 after he claimed to have lost money gambling at a casino when he was supposed to be at a law enforcement conference.

Debbie Davis, who described herself as a longtime friend of longtime Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely, testified Wednesday as a reluctant witness for the state, news outlets reported.

Blakely, 70, went to the gambling center of Biloxi, Mississippi, while he was on the Gulf Coast for a conference in Gulf Shores in 2016, testimony showed. Davis said Blakely called her from Biloxi and said it was no fun being there after losing all your money.

Testimony about that trip continued Thursday, with a casino employee saying Blakely bought about $20,000 in chips over a few days and cashed in just $1,000. But the sheriff’s lawyer asked the employee if he knew Blakely won $975,000 playing the lottery weeks before the trip.

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Davis testified that she offered the sheriff money and he repaid it following the trip. Blakely is charged with violating state ethics law by asking Davis to send him the money, but she said they’d been friends before he became sheriff and she wired him the $1,000 because she wanted to do so.

Under defense questioning, Davis testified she wasn’t aware that Blakely had been invited to play golf in Biloxi with three Limestone County commissioners. She told a prosecutor she didn’t want to see Blakely convicted.

Lt. Johnny Morrell and Jeff Kilpatrick, who both work as sheriff’s office investigators, testified about a trip they took with Blakely to a law enforcement in Las Vegas. Both testified they loaned money to the sheriff during the trip.

“I would do it any day of the week,” Morrell said.

Blakely has continued working as sheriff since being indicted in 2019 on multiple charges but would automatically be removed from office with a felony conviction.