Limestone Sheriff asks judge to dismiss charge, accuses AG’s office of improper conduct
After the first day of testimony at the trial of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely, defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss one of the more serious charges against Blakely and essentially accused the Attorney General’s office of l ‘Alabama for misleading the court.
Movement came in response to testimony from Trent Willis, owner of the now-defunct Red Brick Strategies, a politically connected advertising company who worked with Blakely during his recent re-election campaign. Willis testified that he conspired with Blakely to defraud Blakely’s campaign account by overpaying the campaign for services, which Red Brick would then reimburse directly to Blakely.
Willis’ testimony was cut short and later completely suspended as lawyers for both sides argued without the jury present. According to the defense motion on Monday evening, during oral argument before Judge Pamela Baschab on Monday afternoon, attorneys for the Attorney General’s office first revealed in court that Willis was under investigation by the ‘State. As such, he would be allowed not to answer questions from the defense, thus avoiding self-incrimination.
This revelation apparently angered Baschab and prompted Blakely’s defense team to ask the judge to quash the trial – a motion Bashab rejected.
Blakely’s defense team, led by Huntsville attorney Robert Tuten, had asked the attorney general’s office in documents filed before the trial began to provide the defense with the names of all witnesses who are the subject of the trial. investigation or having entered into plea agreements or negotiations with the Attorney General’s office. According to sources present when these issues were debated before Baschab, lawyers for the GA’s office said no witnesses had reached a deal and no investigation was underway. When asked specifically about Willis, the sources said, the state said he was unknown to them.
APR has spoken extensively about Willis and his odd lack of legal issues – a story Blakely’s lawyers referred to in court on Monday. A current state lawmaker, Rep. Ritchie Whorton, has accused Willis of stealing approximately $ 100,000 from Whorton’s campaign account. Whorton took documentation of the alleged theft and alleged fraudulent campaign fundraising reports that Willis filed with the GA office in 2018.
At the AG’s office, Whorton and prominent political consultant Steve Raby said they met with investigators and provided them with bank statements and spreadsheets showing the alleged theft. Since then, nearly three years later, Whorton and Raby have been unable to get any information from the GA’s office about the theft investigation, or if there had been one.
The cause of the lack of action on Whorton’s alleged theft now seems clear, at least to Blakely’s lawyers: the state was covering up a deal it made with a key witness.
In its motion to dismiss the charge related to Willis’ testimony, Blakely’s defense team noted the many times the AG’s office apparently lied to the court when it said Willis was not doing the job. ‘under investigation for crimes of public corruption. At one point, speaking to a judge, an assistant attorney general said that he had “checked with every office and division, top to bottom” of the attorney general’s office and that there was no no investigation involving Willis.
However, following Willis ‘testimony that he conspired with Blakely, the defense petition indicates that assistant AG Clark Morris – the head of the division that would investigate Willis’ crimes – revealed in court that Willis was in fact under investigation and asked the court to inform Willis of his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
The motion asks the judge to drop the charge related to Willis, strike out his testimony, and strike out all documents presented during his testimony.
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Blakely faces 11 counts of abuse of his office for personal gain and theft of campaign funds.