Updated Wed, Sep 11, 2013 7:02 am
Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly wants to quash a grand jury subpoena issued for records relating to his office’s use of confidential informants.
The grand jury, convened by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as part of an investigation of allegations against Kelly, met again Tuesday. Appearing before the grand jury were two special agents of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, as well as a BCI forensic accountant, but no other witnesses were seen entering the grand jury room.
It’s known that BCI has been investigating allegations relating to Kelly and disposal of county records, scrap metal and vehicles, audit findings against Kelly and other matters.
Kelly initially asked that the subpoena for confidential informant records be quashed in a letter he sent directly to Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge George P. McCarthy. After McCarthy ruled Tuesday that the request did not follow proper procedure, County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn — as the sheriff’s legal counsel — provided a letter to Assistant Attorney General James Roberts saying that the sheriff has asked Blackburn to file a formal motion to quash. However, Blackburn first asked Roberts if the attorney general’s office would be willing to limit the scope of the subpoena.
Roberts was the special prosecutor handling Tuesday’s grand jury session. Asked by The Messenger about Blackburn’s letter, he declined to comment.
In Monday’s letter to McCarthy, Kelly listed several reasons as to why the sheriff believes he should not have to comply with the subpoena, which asks for Kelly to submit all records relating to confidential informants used by the sheriff and his deputies from Jan. 1, 2008, to present.
Kelly previously told The Messenger that the subpoena was “unprecedented” and “irresponsible” and said it will compromise the ability of his department as well as other law enforcement agencies to be able to work with confidential informants.
In Kelly’s letter to McCarthy, he states that if BCI wants information on a specific confidential informant, they should name that specific individual.
“To require confidential informants’ names and files to be produced without a specific case or event is compromising the integrity of communications between a law enforcement officer and his confidential informant and is irresponsible and unwise and thus jeopardizes the future abilities to communicate with informants,” Kelly wrote.
The sheriff added that the subpoena of an entire agency’s confidential informant list is unprecedented and would have “extending ramifications in the law enforcement community.”
Kelly also wrote “at no time has any current employee of the Athens County Sheriff’s Office been the subject of this long-standing investigation” and asks that if BCI will name an employee that it wants information on, “we will assist.”
“Throwing a hook into the sea to see if you can find something is not the actions of a ‘professional’ agency,” Kelly wrote.
In his letter to Roberts, Blackburn noted Kelly’s concern that the subpoena is overly broad and has the potential to harm future investigations.
“I would ask that you please be more specific as to date, informant number or case officer,” Blackburn wrote. “The sheriff is concerned that the release of all confidential informants could have a negative impact on future recruitment of confidential informants.”
Blackburn also noted that some of the information subpoenaed is from prior to Kelly becoming sheriff in 2009, and that the sheriff’s office was part of the Major Crimes Task Force during 2008 and some of the records may not be under sheriff’s office control.
“Further, the sheriff’s office does not maintain all of the records you have requested,” Blackburn wrote. “Would if be possible to narrow your request?”
Blackburn and Roberts held a meeting about the letter after Tuesday’s grand jury session.
Although it appeared that only BCI personnel appeared before the grand jury Tuesday, the session lasted from mid-morning into the afternoon. If is believed that the grand jury has not yet completed its work and will meet again. The grand jury met three times in June.