BELL COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - A district judge has dismissed some of the charges against Bell County Clerk Becky Blevins and three of her employees. The felony charges still stand.
This happened on Monday during a preliminary hearing.
During the hearing, the special prosecutor from Whitley County called the the Attorney General Investigator to the stand. Paul Underwood testified in 2009-2011, Bell County Clerk Becky Blevins kept tax refunds intended for people who purchased vehicles in Tennessee and then registered them in Bell County.
"Resulting in a refund to the taxpayer, but Becky Blevins never refunded the money to the taxpayer," Underwood testified.
As an example, he said one man purchased a 2010 Chevrolet Avalanche in Knoxville, TN and paid estimated taxes and registration to the dealer. The dealer sent the money to the Bell County Clerk's office. The check was issued for $1,256.50 but the clerk recorded the taxes as $837.79. He never received a refund for the difference.
Underwood also claimed the women forged a deputy sheriff's signature on inspections for Vehicle Transaction Records (VTR).
"The owner of the vehicle stated they never had their vehicle inspected," said Underwood.
He also accused the women of shredding documents to conceal the theft. He testified other courthouse employees claimed the women shredded documents after hours.
Defense attorneys argued there was no evidence the women forged signatures and kept the tax refunds.
After testimony, special-appointed Judge Skip Hammons ruled the statute of limitations had run out on the misdemeanor charges because more than one year has passed since the alleged activity. He dismissed the official misconduct charge against Blevins.
"I have no choice," Judge Hammons said during court.
He also dismissed the theft charge. He sent the felony forgery charge to the grand jury.
"We got everything dismissed against Miss Blevins except for one charge, and I think we can take care of that," said Lowell Lundy, defense attorney for Blevins.
The judge also dismissed the theft related charges against Flora Ferrell, Kayla Carnes, and Connie Watkins.
The forgery charges against Carnes and Watkins are going to the grand jury.
"Little disappointed the felony charge will proceed but I feel like if it survives the grand jury, I welcome the challenge because I feel it's a charge we can beat," said Stephanie L. McKeehan, defense attorney for Watkins.
"She just really wants to push forward, show that she's innocent and that's what we believe we'll be able to do in the upcoming weeks and months," said Michael Ingram, defense attorney for Carnes.
The prosecutor indicated in court he intends to present the case to the grand jury this month.
Flora Ferrell had no felony charges so her entire case was dismissed. Ferrell declined to comment after the hearing. Her attorney said during court that she left her job at the Bell County Clerk's office last year.
Defense attorneys for Blevins, Carnes, and Watkins requested a reduced bond in the case. The judge reduced it to $25,000 unsecured and lifted the bond release requirement of electronic monitoring on the women. They are still not allowed to have contact with each other.