- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

ATHENS, Ohio (AP) - A sheriff accused of pocketing cash by selling county vehicles to a salvage yard and spending thousands of public dollars on clothes and restaurant meals was found guilty on Thursday of using his office for his own benefit.

A jury deliberated two days before finding Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly guilty of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft in office and other charges. Kelly was found guilty of 18 of the 25 charges against him in a grand jury indictment.

The 64-year-old Kelly, who already had been suspended, was led away in handcuffs after the verdict was announced. He could face considerable prison time when he’s sentenced next month.

A special state prosecutor said Kelly, a Democrat elected in 2008 and 2012, began to use the sheriff’s office to misspend public money within months of being sworn into office in 2009. The prosecutor charged that Kelly also took more than $4,000 from the sheriff’s office cash box without accounting for its use.

Kelly testified during the trial that he never did anything wrong and was guilty of nothing more than poor record-keeping.

He testified that he used the money from the sale of public property to pay two confidential informants who were helping him investigate illegal drug activity and public corruption by county elected officials. He also defended spending public money on restaurant meals.

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