Sheriff versus prosecutor E-mail
Written by Jose Torres   

In Ohio, a storm is brewing. But it’s not a hurricane or a tornado. It’s a war of words between the sheriff and the county prosecutor. According to a recent article from the Athens News, Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly has blasted county Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, for telling the sheriff that there is no legal basis to quash a subpoena the sheriff wants done away with. The prosecutor told the sheriff he’s not about to serve as Kelly's personal defense attorney. Firing back, Kelly has suggested that Blackburn is “immature” and won’t kill the subpoena because of personal feelings.

The sheriff says that if the county prosecutor won’t defend him in the ongoing state criminal investigation of the sheriff's office, Blackburn should "stand down" as prosecutor in this case.

In a strongly worded letter to Blackburn which the sheriff was happy to share with The Athens NEWS, the sheriff criticized the prosecutor for refusing to file a motion to quash a subpoena that recently was served on Kelly by state investigators.

The grand jury subpoena is just one of four served on the sheriff by agents of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The subpoena seeks information about a confidential informant working for Kelly.

The grand jury is part of an ongoing state investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing in Kelly's agency.

Kelly asked Blackburn to make the subpoena go away by arguing that giving BCI information about his informant could endanger the informant and others as well as undermine other criminal investigations being conducted by the Sheriff's office.

Faced with the reality that Kelly did not intend to comply with the subpoena, the AG's office has filed a motion asking Common Pleas L. Alan Goldsberry to order the sheriff to do so.

Blackburn told Kelly in a recent letter that there is no legal basis to quash the subpoena. Blackburn told Kelly in the same letter that if he wants a defense attorney for himself, he would have to hire one.

"The office of county prosecutor is not able to provide legal advice or represent Pat Kelly," Blackburn wrote. "If you feel you need representation for your own criminal or civil liabilities, you will need to hire a personal attorney."

Kelly says that’s unacceptable.

"I believe you as the prosecutor of Athens County, have lost sight of your responsibilities as prosecutor," he wrote to Blackburn. "You have taken your personal feeling for me and allowed your immaturity to cloud your responsibilities… If you choose not to represent me as sheriff and my office, please stand down and do not stand in the way of the county commissioners approving funds to have outside counsel provide accurate counsel that is in the best interests of Athens County."

Kelly has asked the county commissioners to provide funds so he can hire a private attorney. Commissioners said no dice.

In his letter to the prosecutor, Kelly repeats a list of reasons he has already given on why the confidential informant subpoena should be thrown out by a judge.”

"In your letter you stated there is not a legal basis to quash the subpoena. I disagree," the sheriff wrote. "That is the purpose for a motion to quash. That is up to a Common Pleas Court judge to decide."

Blackburn says Kelly’s request is ridiculous.

"The ridiculousness of this request is… Once a motion to compel is filed, a motion to quash is moot," he said, given that the judge's ruling on the motion to compel will resolve the issue one way or another.

As for Kelly's charge that Blackburn is negligent in his duties for not coming to the sheriff’s aid, the prosecutor says that’s an easy one to explain.

"I don't represent people who are accused of felonies. I represent the side that goes after those who are accused of felonies. I'm not a criminal defense attorney," Blackburn said.

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