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Alabama Sheriff granted parole after convictions for theft and abuse of power


Mike Blakely, the man once known as Alabama's longest-serving sheriff, was granted parole on Thursday and soon will be released from prison, following his 2021 conviction on felony charges of theft and abuse of power.

The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles deliberated for several minutes before board members Darryl Littleton and Gabrelle Simmons voted in favor of releasing Blakely. Board chair Leigh Gwathney voted against parole, saying she wanted Blakely to finish his three-year sentence, reported.

When the 2-1 decision was announced, several people attending the packed hearing erupted in applause and tears.

Blakely, a Democrat, was the elected sheriff of Limestone County for nearly four decades until he was convicted on Aug. 2, 2021. He didn't begin serving his sentence until after his direct appeals were denied. He has been held in the Franklin County Detention Center since Feb. 24, 2023, WHNT-TV reported.

The two convictions arose from accusations that Blakely helped himself to no-interest loans from a jail safe used to hold inmates' money and that he deposited $4,000 in campaign funds into his personal account.

Thursday's hearing was a continuation from last month, when the board tied on a 1-1 vote on Blakely's release in Simmons' absence.

The parole board room was filled with Blakely's supporters. Deborah Bell Paseur, who served as a district judge in Lauderdale County for over 20 years, spoke on his behalf, asking the board, "How much punishment is enough?"

Paseur said that Blakely, who had served just over a year of his three year sentence, has already been publicly humiliated, lost his retirement pension, his voting rights and gun rights.

"Mike Blakely has given much and still has much left to give … a bright light has gone dim in Limestone County. He is loved and respected there," she said.

Sarah Deneve from the Alabama Attorney General's office was the lone voice opposing Blakely's parole, saying that serving less than half his time would "undermine the sentence imposed by the court."

"He took advantage of his very own inmates by taking their money to the tune of $29,000 to finance a lifestyle he could not afford," Deneve said. "While Blakely may be sorry now, his selfish actions while serving as an elected official and law enforcement officer harms society as a whole."

Upon his release, Blakely must complete 100 hours of community service. It was not immediately known when he would be freed.

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