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Alabama Denies Parole to Former Sheriff Convicted of Corruption

Once Alabama’s longest-­serving sheriff, Mike Blakely, 72, will continue serving a three-­year sentence for corruption handed down in August 2021, after the state Board of Pardons and Paroles (BOPP) deadlocked over his parole application on March 7, 2024. The 1-­to-­1 tie vote meant no parole for Blakely, who has so far served a little over a year in prison.

Blakely had been Limestone County Sheriff for 38 years when he was removed from office, after a jury found him guilty of taking $29,050 in interest-­free personal loans from a safe holding money for detainees at the county jail, as well as misdirecting $4,000 in campaign funds through a Huntsville consulting firm that funneled them to him for personal use.

As PLN reported, amended ethics disclosures filed after Blakely became the target of a 2018 investigation revealed $350,000 in previously unreported gambling winnings. An attempt to have the state supreme court invalidate the ethics law under which he was indicted then failed in February 2023, as did a last-­minute attempt to disqualify the judge presiding over his case. [See: PLN, Nov. 2023, p.51.]

About 30 supporters of the former Sheriff, who won 10 elections as a Democrat, showed up at the BOPP hearing to argue that he was sufficiently remorseful to qualify for parole. But a representative of state GOP Attorney General (AG) Steve Marshall, who prosecuted Blakely’s case, said “this inmate has shown little remorse and now apologizes to suit his own needs.”

BOPP has been harshly criticized for granting parole to just a fraction of those eligible—about 10% in fiscal year 2022—in turn driving overcrowding blamed for horrific violence and deaths in state prisons. BOPP said one member was absent and wouldn’t say how the other two members present voted on Blakely’s petition. However, one of them, Leigh Gwathney, formerly worked in the AG office, and an analysis of 10 hearings in 2023 by the American Civil Liberties Union found she voted against release 100% of the time when the AG office opposed parole. Blakely’s next parole hearing is currently scheduled for April 11, 2024.  


Source: Birmingham News

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