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Prosecution rests, defense gets underway in Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s criminal trial

The state rested their case against Mike Blakely, the judge dismissed a juror from the trial, and Blakely's defense attorneys began making their case.

Posted: Jul 27, 2021 6:38 PM
Updated: Jul 28, 2021 12:16 PM

Three major developments in the Limestone County Sheriff’s criminal corruption trial.

On Tuesday, the state rested its case against Mike Blakely, the judge dismissed a juror from the trial, and Blakely's defense attorneys began making their case.

After the state rested its case, jurors were released for a two-hour lunch break. However, the attorneys returned before that.

The defense brought up a motion for judgement of acquittal, asking the judge to dismiss every count Blakely is facing. They claim the state failed to prove criminal intent behind each of the 11 charges.

After some back and forth between the defense and prosecution, the judge dismissed the motion. However, she did agree to drop count 5, a theft charge surrounding Blakely's 2014 work trip to Las Vegas.

The state​ filed the motion to drop count 5 after Debbie Davis, the chief clerk for the Limestone County Sheriff's Office, came up with a receipt showing Blakely had reimbursed the law enforcement fund when he returned from the Vegas trip.

After this charge was dropped, the defense started calling witnesses to the stand.

Jurors heard from the defense's first four witness, and they all had testimonies surrounding campaign funds. Those campaign funds deal with the first four theft charges of the indictment.

Two of the witnesses spoke about their relationship with the owner of Red Brick Strategies, and they didn't have good things to say.

The CEO and founder of Red Brick Strategies, Trent Willis, previously testified as one of the state's witnesses. His advertising company provided Blakely with ads during his re-election campaign, and the state claims Blakely stole $4,000 from Willis' company.

But now, the defense is trying to paint Willis as an unreliable source, especially since he's also under investigation by the attorney general's office for stealing $100,000 in campaign funds.

Tuesday, jurors heard from the man missing that large sum of money. House Representative Ritchie Whorton testified that he trusted Willis and his company to manage his campaign account. But in 2018, he got a phone call that $100,000 were missing.

Jurors also heard testimony from a former employee of Red Brick Strategies, Dustin Timbrook.

When Timbrook began working for Willis he described their relationship as very friendly, until Willis stopped paying Timbrook's health insurance and started threatening him on the internet. Now, Timbrook describes his former boss as a predator, and said he would not believe anything Willis said under oath.

Also on Tuesday, a juror was dismissed from the trial after the judge heard testimony that she had an intimate relationship with an inmate in the Limestone County jail.

Two fellow prisoners testified that the inmate said he could influence the juror to vote guilty or not guilty on the case.

The judge dismissed the juror, and the trial moved right along.

Before being dismissed for the day, jurors began to hear from an expert witness in Alabama elections and campaigns.

Steve Raby described how elections work on the local scale, saying it's often friends and family members who help elected officials on their campaign, and therefore money often gets put in incorrect places.

Raby will continue his testimony at 9 a.m. Wednesday as the state begins their cross-examination.

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