Wearing a light-colored cowboy hat, blue jeans, and what appeared to be a pistol holster, a former Alabama sheriff walked up to a collection of television microphones outside his lawyer’s office in Huntsville and bragged about the jail he once managed — at least until he ended up there as an inmate.
“Best jail in the state of Alabama — that’s another thing I’m proud of,” former sheriff Mike Blakely said during a news conference reported by the Associated Press. “The food was real good; the staff took very good care of me.”
A jury convicted the 70-year-old former law enforcer of “taking no-interest loans” from a “fund that held prisoners’ money” at the Limestone County Jail in Athens, Ala. — the same jail where he eventually served time — the AP reported. Athens is about 40 minutes west of Huntsville.
Blakely was also convicted of “stealing $4,000 from his campaign account,” the AP said.
Huntsville ABC affiliate WAAY-TV said the jury only convicted Blakely on two counts of a 13-count indictment. CBS affiliate WHNT-TV said the August convictions involved one count of first-degree theft of property and use of an official position or office for personal gain. Both counts were Class B felonies.
The original indictment included additional accusations of theft of property (sometimes in other varying degrees of severity), one count of soliciting a thing of value from a subordinate, and other counts involving the alleged use of an official position or office for personal gain.
The ex-top cop spoke Tuesday because he was released from custody pending an appeal of his conviction. He was behind bars for more than two weeks, the AP noted.
WAAY said the sheriff was penning somewhat of a memoir.
“I’ve been extremely busy, as I said, working on my book,” Blakely told reporters. “You have no idea what a game changer it is when basically everything is taken away from you.”
“When you lose a job, your health insurance, your vehicle, and something that you’ve been doing for the last 38 and a half years, it’s a big game changer,” he added.
The book is allegedly going to discuss Blakely’s criminal trial, WAAY reported. Blakely is hoping to release it next year.
Blakely also said he was riding horses and working around his house now that he’s out of jail.
The former sheriff maintained his innocence while speaking to reporters on Tuesday as per WHNT’s telling of the so-called “maze of information” which resulted from the rambling presser.
“Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be appealing this case if I felt like I was guilty, and everything was hunky-dory in my trial,” Blakely said.
He also tacitly suggested that prosecutors twisted the facts when they tried him.
“I think the majority, the people that know me and appreciate the job we’ve done for the past 38 years, you know, are very supportive,” Blakely continued. “They don’t buy into a lot of the hype and the insinuations the innuendos, the things that were made.”
“They say if you throw enough stuff against the wall, some of it’s gonna stick,” he later added. “And I think that’s kinda what happened in my case. I’m not guilty of what I was convicted of. I really feel very positive going into this appeal.”
The AP said that Blakely was “in his 10th straight term” when he was removed from office. That made him the “longest-serving sheriff” in the state before his downfall.
At the press conference, Blakely denied receiving special treatment from the staff who once reported to him as boss. But he also claimed “they kept me in my office up front” during part of his time; otherwise “they had me in the hole in the back.”
He saw no distinction between the two.
“I was incarcerated,” Blakely said, again according to the AP. He then noted: “when you’re incarcerated, let me tell you, you don’t have the freedom to go.”
“If they wanted to put me in there with the general population, I would’ve been fine,” Blakely continued — this time according to the WHNT report.
The former sheriff said his fellow inmates treated him well and that he declined offers to have food delivered to him while he was in custody.
“I said, ‘No, I eat the jail food ’cause I love it because I’ve been eating it for the last 38 years,” Blakely told reporters.
He said his favorite prison chow was “stuff I grew up on.”
“We had cabbage, we had beans, cornbread,” he explained.
If Blakely is unsuccessful at appealing his sentence, he’ll be ordered to report to the Franklin County Jail — not the facility in Limestone County he once supervised.
A GoFundMe to pay for Blakely’s legal fees netted $16,600 — easily beating the goal of $16,000.
One person who donated $100 to the ex-sheriff’s cause said there were “[n]o major unsolved crimes” while Blakely was in charge.
“His lawyer is right,” that donor continued. “[N]o intent, no crime.”
“I’ve always slept better at night knowing he was in charge,” said another person who donated $1,000 to the GoFundMe. “He spent a lifetime protecting us in Limestone County. He deserves better than this.”
Read the original indictment below:
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