By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A former Ohio sheriff accused of almost two dozen felonies including pocketing the proceeds from the sale of public property went on trial on Monday.
Patrick Kelly, 64, was indicted last January for what Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said was a "pattern of corrupt activity" during his time as Athens County sheriff from 2009 to 2013 in southeastern Ohio, as well as from when he was campaigning for the office in 2008.
Jury selection began on Monday. Kelly faces 23 felony charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft in office, tampering with evidence and perjury, and two misdemeanor offenses of obstructing official business and dereliction of duty.
Kelly says he is innocent of the charges and accuses DeWine's investigation of being motivated by a political agenda.
Prosecutors contend Kelly, who was elected in 2008, immediately began using his office to enrich himself by selling county property and keeping the proceeds, improperly using money from a cash box and county law enforcement funds, and funneling campaign donations for personal use.
Kelly is accused of keeping about $3,000 from selling county property, including copper wire and government vehicles, according to court documents.
An audit showed that Kelly used about $600 in public funds for suits and more than $4,000 for personal meal expenditures, and took more than $15,000 from various law enforcement trust funds.
Kelly, a Democrat who was reelected in 2012, was suspended with pay by the Ohio Supreme Court in March.
Judge Patricia Cosgrove told prospective jurors on Monday that a trial could last two to three weeks.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Eric Beech)