Sheriff Mike Blakely

Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely speaks to voters at a political rally held in August at the Limestone County Sheriff's Rodeo Arena.

ATHENS, Ala.  — Final jury selection is set for the trial of an Alabama sheriff charged with theft and ethics violations after lawyers spent days whittling down a pool of potential jurors to about 100 people.

Judge Pamela Baschab said attorneys would select a jury of 12 people and three alternate members for the case against Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely on Friday morning, and legal instructions and opening statements will follow, news outlets reported.

Initially held in secret but opened to the public after news organizations sought to intervene, the questioning of potential jurors showed many knew or had opinions about the 70-year-old Blakely, first elected in 1983.

Testimony could last from nearly two weeks to about a month, the judge has said.

Blakely has pleaded not guilty to a dozen felony counts alleging he solicited money from employees, stole campaign donations and got interest-free loans. In court documents, prosecutors have tied his actions to alcohol use and gambling visits to out-of-state casinos.

While a felony conviction would result in Blakely's automatic removal from office, he has continued to work as sheriff since his indictment.

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