County coroner pleads guilty to theftPublished 10:02am Thursday, March 6, 2014
Elmore County Coroner Tim Ellison withdrew his not guilty plea Thursday morning to enter a plea of guilty to two charges of theft of property and one charge of intentional use of his official position for personal gain in violation of the state ethics law.
Ellison was indicted on 11 counts of theft in which he overbilled municipalities and the Elmore County Commission for transportation of bodies to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
In his plea agreement, Ellison pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree theft of property, which is a Class C felony.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree theft of property, which is a misdemeanor.
His third plea was to the use of his official position as county coroner for personal gain, which is a state ethics violation as well as a Class B felony.
“I am pleased that this prosecution put an end to the crimes of a corrupt public official who betrayed the public trust and stole taxpayers’ money,” said Attorney General Luther Strange. “Today, Ellison and his accomplice have been held to account for their wrongdoing. With the conclusion of this case when Ellison is sentenced, we expect that the stolen funds will be restored to their rightful public entities.”
Since Ellison entered the guilty pleas in the felony counts, he automatically vacates his office as county coroner.
According to state law if a public official is convicted of a felony, he would have to vacate his position at the time he was convicted.
Once the office is vacated, the deputy coroner will serve in Ellison’s place, but there is no one officially serving as the deputy coroner in Elmore County, according to Elmore County Commission Chairman David Bowen.
Ellison could face up to 92 years in prison following the guilty pleas to the two felonies and the misdemeanor, according to Circuit Court Judge Sibley Reynolds.
Following Ellison’s plea of guilt on the three charges, Reynolds continued the case until April 9.
Co-conspirator Yancey Mitchell, who is owner of Hillside Mortuary in Wetumpka, pleaded down to one misdemeanor count that he aided and abetted Ellison in a third-degree theft of property.
Mitchell was sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation and fined $250.
Strange thanked the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of Wetumpka, Millbrook and Tallassee for their assistance and the State Ethics Commission for its referral of this matter.