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Sheriff Pat Kelly pleads not guilty, refuses to resign despite protests at courthouse
Just as he said he would, Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly pleaded not guilty to 25 criminal charges, including money laundering and theft, among others, at his arraignment in the Athens County Common Pleas Court on Monday.
While Kelly was in the courtroom, protesters — many of whom were students — were outside at the intersection of Court and Washington streets calling for Kelly to step down. One protester held up a sign that read, “My taxes don’t pay bail.”
Kelly, 63, was ordered to report to the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail to take a booking photo and DNA test and give his fingerprints.
As of press time, about 4:45 p.m. Monday, a booking clerk at the jail said Kelly had not shown up.
But Kelly does not have to be incarcerated during the proceedings because the judge placed him on a personal recognizance bond, which is essentially a non-monetary promise between Kelly and the court that he doesn’t have to go to jail during the trial as long he shows up to court hearings.
A personal recognizance bond is typically used when there is no risk of the defendant fleeing the area.
Kelly has made it clear to reporters in interviews and the public on his Facebook page that he will fight to keep his office. Kelly declined to comment to reporters at the courthouse Monday but has previously said he would not step down.
Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove, a former judge from Summit County who is overseeing the Kelly case, approved the state-requested $50,000 bond against the sheriff “given the number of charges and (their) degree.”
He’ll only have to pay if he violates that bond agreement.
Kelly’s next court date, a pretrial, is set for Feb. 28 at 1 p.m.
Before then, Kelly will have to find legal representation. Though the Athens County Commissioners approved a request in September to have Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty represent Kelly during the grand jury trial, the sheriff is still in need of a permanent attorney, Cosgrove said.
Kelly’s legal counsel was only present for the purpose of the arraignment Monday.
Cosgrove said Kelly has a “reasonable period of time” to find a permanent lawyer.
On the same day as the pretrial, there will also be a hearing for contempt for the sheriff’s office, which failed to respond to an October grand jury subpoena demanding Kelly hand over a list of confidential informants.
Will Lloyd, a senior studying mechanical engineering who protested outside the Athens County Common Pleas Court Monday, said 23 felony charges is reason enough for Kelly to step down or be removed from office.
“Our biggest issue is we need the sheriff and… he is battling 23 felony counts,” Lloyd said. “The sheriff is a very integral part (of Athens).”
State officials have evidence they believe proves Kelly committed the crimes listed in his indictment, such as his alleged illegal sale of county property, abuse of campaign funds for his “Kelly for Sheriff” and “Re-elect Sheriff Kelly” campaigns and misuse of his office’s funds for personal reasons.
Individual protestors came and left throughout the course of the hearing, but there were about 10 people at a time voicing their opinions against the sheriff.
As Kelly walked into the courthouse, one protester, Colton Henson, a senior studying political science, said to the sheriff, “If you can’t handle the pressure, go ahead and resign now.”
— Lucas Daprile contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Kelly pleads not guilty"