The Alabama prosecutor’s office today claimed that the sheriff issued a reserve deputy card to Tong Shen Chiu, a man he had never met before, in an attempt to get the man to give him a $ 50,000 loan.
Sheriff Mike Blakely then sent inmates to work in a business that Chiu owns with Brad Pullum, one of the sheriff’s former employees.
But defense lawyers were able to question the credibility of Pullum and another state witness in a corruption lawsuit against Blakely, the sheriff-elect of Limestone County, a fast-growing suburb west of Huntsville.
During his testimony, Chiu claimed that Pullum tricked him into paying $ 750,000 to fund various business ventures that never took off. Blakely’s lawyers wondered if Pullum was drunk or high while testifying. Pullum told the jury that he took prescribed pain relievers before testifying, but did not drink.
The state called Pullum to testify about how he arranged for Chiu to give the sheriff a check for $ 50,000 in 2015.
Blakely is charged with 11 crimes, including using his position for personal gain in connection with the work of prisoners and a check from Chiu.
Pullum and Chiu, along with Pullum’s daughter, owned the business. Pullum revealed that he started a business called Higo, hoping to open a gun shop and shooting range in Athens, as well as sell military equipment such as submarines and weapons to the US government and Taiwan.
Pullum also has a real estate business, and back in August 2015, he was awarded a contract to sell a house that Blakely inherited from his late parents. Pullum testified that prior to the sale, he had paid a lien on the house in the amount of $ 22,189.
Pullum testified that Blakely told him, “My ass is in a bandage. I need to get rid of this house. ” Pullum told the jury that Blakely owed money to another man, Paul Anderson, nicknamed “The Tall Floor.”
More than a year earlier, Anderson loaned the sheriff $ 30,000 to pay the county $ 28,572, which the sheriff was overpaid due to an accounting error in 2013.
Blakely planned to repay Anderson by selling the house he inherited from his parents, but it took too long to sell, according to state prosecutors.
Pullum testified that he asked Chiu to give the sheriff $ 50,000 in repayment to Anderson.
State prosecutors say Chiu only gave Blakely the money after the sheriff made him an honorary deputy and gave him a card that he could use as a gun permit.
But Chiu, also testifying from the state, told the jury that he took out a loan and wrote a check for $ 50,000 to the sheriff because Pullum asked him to. He also testified that he had already taken out a loan and requested a check even before he met with Blakely to get his parliamentary ticket.
Then, according to Chiu, he trusted Pullum because they were friends.
Chiu told the jury that he now had nothing to do with Pullum. He said that Pullum received about $ 750,000 from him to invest in various business ideas that never came to fruition.
When Blakely’s house was sold in September 2015, the profits went towards paying off money that Blakely owed Pullum and Chiu.
But state prosecutors say that due to the loans, Blakely also sent three inmates, including one convicted of murder, to work in Higo.
Chiu revealed that he had nothing to do with Higo’s activities, but simply helped fund it. Chiu told the jury that Pullum only included him in starting the business because Pullum believed that having a “minority” owner would help them secure government contracts.
One of the men who was incarcerated in Limestone County Jail when he worked in Higo for two or three months in 2015 testified that he and other inmates were paid $ 10 an hour to renovate Higo’s headquarters in Athens. He told the jury that the sheriff did not receive their salary. He testified that he and other inmates were hired to lead the walls of Pullum’s office.
Pullum told the jury he wants the office to be safe so he can meet with generals and other senior military officials on arms sales.
The business has never had contracts for the sale of military equipment to the United States or any other country.
Prisoner labor and loan certificates completed the second week of Blakely’s trial. The state is expected to call its 30th witness when the trial resumes Monday at 1:00 pm.