Blakely trial: Limestone Co. Sheriff employees testify on money spent on Las Vegas conference trip

Sheriff Mike Blakely and two other employees went to Las Vegas twice for a training conference.

Posted: Jul 21, 2021 6:10 PM
Updated: Jul 21, 2021 6:14 PM

In court Wednesday during the criminal trial of Sheriff Mike Blakely, attorneys went over how travel expenses are covered at the Limestone County Sheriff's Office.

The chief clerk Debbie Davis testified for four hours. She is responsible of providing the money ahead of the trip.

She says employees get $75 per diem when they travel. It used to be $60.

That money can be used for food, gas and other travel expenses. Employees get to keep any leftover per diem money. Money is also provided for other things like registration, lodging, parking, road tolls and roadside emergencies.

Davis was asked about Blakely's trips to Las Vegas. He traveled twice in 2014 and 2015 for training conferences.

During both trips, Blakely drove to Vegas with two other employees because "the sheriff does not fly."

Davis says they got per diem for the vehicle they used to travel. They also got extra money for lodging and other trip-related expenses. Davis said she tried to encourage the sheriff to take more money, but Blakely denied the offer and thought they would be OK.

A former Limestone County Sheriff's Office employee testified Tuesday that Blakely asked her to wire transfer $1,000 of inmate money to a casino in Vegas. The employee says she didn't know what the money was going to be used for. Davis was also unaware of that transfer.

The defense claims the money that was transfered was used to pay for gas and other travel-related expenses on their way back to Alabama.

Davis says after one of the Vegas trips Blakely did return with more than $900 to be reimbursed to the law enforcement fund.

Two of the sheriff's office employees who went on the Las Vegas trips testified, along with an actual employee from the Palace Station Casino.

Lt. Johnny Morell attended both the 2014 and 2015 trip, while investigator Jeff Kilpatrick only went to the conference in 2014.

During the 2014 trip, they both received $480 from the Limestone County Law Enforcement Fund to use for food expenses.

However, neither of them were aware that Blakely got an extra $2,500 on top of his food expense money. They both said they assume it was to pay for lodging and gas on the way there.

Both Morell and Kilpatrick remember seeing Blakely attending the classes at the conference. But Kilpatrick added he also saw Blakely outside of the hotel one day when they were both supposed to be in a class.

The casino employee, Nick Langenfeld, deals with financial crimes for the Palace Station Casino and testified as the custodian of records.

The state showed a record of Blakely's gambling sessions while at the hotel.

Records show on December 8th, day one of the conference, Blakely started playing games around 10:30 in the morning. That would have been during the very first class of the conference.

The defense argued there's no way to tell it was actually Blakely gambling, since the records only show when someone used a specific key registered in Blakely's name.

They argue there is no way to prove someone didn't steal the key and use it, or that his wife didn't use it while he was actually inside attending the conference.

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