Pat Kelly left a legacy in Athens County

Before former Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly was convicted on counts of theft in office, perjury and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity in February, he was revered for the gritty, never-say-die drug policies he implemented during his time in office.

Kelly was told he’d serve seven years in prison by visiting Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove at his sentencing hearing Friday. As he was lead out of the courtroom in handcuffs, supporters stood and clapped. One man said, “We’re proud of you, bud.”

Kelly was first elected into office in 2008 after he lost the race for the position in 2004. During his first Democratic primary, Kelly defeated then-Sheriff Vernon Castle.

The former sheriff was known for his open disdain for Kelly during the race.

“I don’t believe he’s the right man for the job and I’ll leave it at that,” he said in a previous Post report.

During the race, Kelly ran on a platform based on the drug policy he would quickly become well known for. He said he planned on implementing a new system of prevention, enforcement and education to combat hard drug use in the county, according to previous Post reports.

Although, before Kelly secured the vote in the county, other Athens law enforcement officials raised nerves.

Former Athens City Police Chief Richard Mayer said the Athens Police Department would no longer participate in multi-county, anti-drug task forces if Kelly were to be elected sheriff, according to previous Post reports.

“I don’t trust (Kelly),” Mayer said in a Post interview. “I don’t want to endanger my officers.”

Kelly filed again for reelection in 2012, despite facing an investigation concerning assault allegations from the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

An Albany resident accused Kelly of assault after Kelly shoved a flyer containing excerpts from an Athens Newsreport, which detailed his stepson’s rape allegations, into the Albany resident’s pocket after he tried to hand it to Kelly, according to previous Post reports.

Kelly alleged the accusations against him were politically motivated, and that the Albany resident was just campaigning for Kelly’s opponent Steve Kane, though the Albany resident denied campaign involvement.

“I am tired of Pat Kelly accusing me of dirty politics for things that he does. I run a very clean campaign,” Kane said in a previous Post interview.

After further accusations from both sides and a pending investigation, Kelly won the 2012 election with 59 percent of the county’s vote, according to previous Post reports.

In the midst of his loss, Kane made a sideways comment toward Kelly that came to describe Kelly’s three-week long trial and testimony in the common pleas court.

“If (voters) want a sheriff just because he’s a Democrat, even though he steals tax payer money — God bless them,” Kane said in a previous Post interview.

Suspicion of Kelly’s criminal activity further grew after a Post report detailed Kelly’s lack of record-keeping pertaining to drug busts and other financial records.

Kelly’s office was not reporting seizure and forfeiture of property, according to the report.

Shortly after his reelection, Kelly faced a number of other accusations, including illegally dumping county records.

In June 2013, Kelly and other local officials testified in front of a grand jury organized by Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Kelly maintained that all records dumped by the sheriff’s office had been properly preserved.

The attorney general’s office also began issuing a series of subpoenas for records from the sheriff’s office and Kelly’s home. Kelly tried, unsuccessfully, to quash those subpoenas.

Despite speculation, Kelly still refused to step down from the sheriff’s office, even after his 25-count indictment in January 2014.

“Another three years,” he said in an interview with the Post, “I’m coming back, people, four years from now … Pat Kelly was elected to do a job, and Pat Kelly will continue to serve Athens County.”

In February, DeWine moved for the Ohio Supreme Court to suspend Kelly from office, according to previous Postreports. Kelly was officially suspended in March, and replaced by current Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith in early April.

The county paid both Kelly and Smith a $69,372 annual salary until Kelly was acquitted. The Athens County Commissioners are now seeking reimbursement for Kelly’s salary via civil suit in late February.

“I am the only one here that knows the truth,” Kelly said during his sentencing Friday. “The prosecutor did not prove guilt, just convinced the jury I was guilty … the truth does not change, and the truth is on my side.”



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