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Ohio sheriff indicted for theft, money laundering

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio county sheriff was indicted on Friday on corruption charges, including stealing copper wire that was sold for scrap and using public money to pay for his personal meals and clothes, state prosecutors said.

Patrick Kelly is the sheriff of Athens County in southeast Ohio, home of Ohio University. The charges include theft in office, money laundering and obstruction of justice, the state attorney general's office said.

The investigation started with a report of an alleged assault committed by the 63-year-old Kelly in September 2012.

Kelly was not charged with the assault, however, "but once we got into the case it was evident there was a lot more to it," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine at a news conference on Friday.

The indictment charges Kelly with taking money from the drug fine fund as well as his own campaign fund.

The Ohio Supreme Court will decide if Kelly must step down from office while he awaits trial, DeWine said.

Kelly, a Democrat, released a statement on his office's Facebook page claiming the indictment was a political move by the Republican DeWine, a claim DeWine has denied.

"I will not step down as your sheriff and will continue with the same strong leadership and professionalism I have served you with for the past five years," Kelly posted.

Kelly was first elected sheriff in 2008. His arraignment is scheduled for February 10 in the Athens County courthouse.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; editing by Mary Wisniewski, G Crosse)

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