Sheriff who recently refused to renew some concealed handgun licenses is indicted on 25 counts

WCMH (NBC Columbus) reported recently that Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly, who just weeks ago made headlines for refusing to renew some current concealed handgun license-holders, has been indicted by a grand jury on 25 counts.

From the article:

According to the indictment, Kelly, 63, was indicted on the following charges:

Three counts of theft in office, a fourth-degree felony
Ten counts of theft in office, a fifth-degree felony
Four counts of theft, a fifth-degree felony
One count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony
One count of money laundering, a third-degree felony
One count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony
One count of tampering with records, a third-degree felony
One count of perjury, a third-degree felony
One count of failure to keep cashbook, an unclassified felony
One count of obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor
One count of dereliction of duty, a second-degree misdemeanor

Kelly, who is in his 6th year as sheriff, released the following statement Friday afternoon, less than an hour before Attorney General Mike DeWine made an announcement regarding the investigation:
"Sadly, the Attorney General's obsession with following a political agenda suggest that their leadership is not up to the kind of honest investigation and oversight that would lead to a clear and just assessment of the facts presented.

"I have not committed or attempted to commit a criminal act nor have any of my employees.

"After two years of accusations and suppositions in an attempt to overturn the results of this past election, in which the majority of Athens County voters cast their confidence in me, we will now discuss this injustice in a court setting where the facts will be presented."

The indictment covers incidents that allegedly occurred January 2008 through September 2013.

DeWine said that 25 witness statements solidify the state's case against Kelly.

"This is a public corruption case. This is a serious case. What we allege is a pattern, a long-standing pattern," DeWine said.

The article goes on to document some of the many charges against Kelly who, for now at least, is refusing to step down.

Last December, Kelly announced that his office was refusing to renew certain concealed handgun licenses issued by his predecessor.

From coverage in the Athens News:

On Dec. 19, the sheriff posted a message on his Facebook page, indicating that his office is changing the way the CCW law has been applied in the county in the past.

"Today, Chris McCauley, my concealed-carry administrator, brought to my attention (the fact that) people that were issued a concealed carry permit by the previous administration received their permits in conflict with the law," the post stated. "Upon renewing, you may be told I cannot renew your license."

The problem, according to Kelly, is that apparently some people were granted five-year CCW permits under former Sheriff Vern Castle's administration. According to Kelly's reading of the law, these people shouldn't have gotten the permits, based on their past criminal records.

Kelly refers to a section of the Ohio Attorney General's booklet on Ohio's concealed-carry laws and license application, which lays out the factors that can disqualify someone from getting a permit.

To qualify for a permit, the booklet says, "you must not be under indictment, be charged with, or convicted of any felony. You also must not be under indictment, charged with, or convicted of any offense that involves trafficking in drugs, a misdemeanor offense of violence, or negligent assault."

One county resident who had held a permit, but was denied recently when he tried to renew it, is Shane A. Sloan, who lives in The Plains.

Sloan said he got his permit five years ago when Castle was in office; it was due to expire Dec. 24. When he sought to renew it last month, he said, he was told the process was a relative formality.

"They said, 'Oh, it's a renewal - (it will take) seven to 10 days,'" he recalled.

Later, however, according to Sloan, he was informed that Kelly was denying the renewal, based on a domestic violence offense Sloan was charged with in 2003. Such a charge, as a violent misdemeanor, would clearly be a disqualifier if he had been convicted of it, but Athens County Municipal Court records show Sloan pleaded no contest to a lesser charge, of disorderly conduct.

Sloan says McCauley of the Sheriff's Office told him that "we're going to have to deny you, because the law says 'charged.'" In other words, the fact that Sloan was once charged with a disqualifying offense means he can't hold a permit, despite his not having been convicted of that offense.

"I said, 'That means currently charged,'" Sloan recalled - in other words, he maintained that to disqualify him, the charge would have had to be still pending at the time he applied for the CCW permit.

...Kelly could not speculate on how many people in the county may be closed out of renewing their current CCW permits by his interpretation of the law.
"We will not know how many are not in compliance until they attempt to renew their licenses," he wrote. "If a person comes to renew and we find (the permit) was issued improperly, we will deny the permit."

The article quotes Attorney General DeWine as saying the sheriff was misreading the law.

While Kelly claims to have contacted the attorney general's office about the question and received no clear answer, the newspaper also called the office, and reports that a spokesperson indicated that the interpretation of the CCW law being used by the Athens County Sheriff's Office is viewed by the state agency as "somewhat unusual."

Eve Mueller, deputy director of communications for the AG's office, stated in an email that section "2923.125 (D) (1) (d) of the Ohio Revised Code says in order for a person to get a license, they can't be 'under indictment.' The Ohio Attorney General's Office interprets 'under' to mean presently. We're not aware of any sheriff in Ohio in 10 years interpreting that to mean 'ever' under indictment."

The Athens News reported a few days later that the Athens County prosecutor's office also told the sheriff that he was wrong:

Last Monday, following news coverage of the case of a man from The Plains, who recently was denied a concealed-carry permit because of a past criminal case, Sheriff Pat Kelly requested a legal opinion on the matter from county Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

The same day, assistant prosecutor Elizabeth Pepper responded, telling the sheriff in so many words that he was wrong to refuse to renew the man's permit, based on a 10-year-old domestic violence charge that was pleaded down to a conviction for disorderly conduct.

The December 31 article did not mention whether Sloan's application had since been approved.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, and BFA PAC Vice Chairman.

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