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Judge will soon hear Blair case testimony

Staff Writer

March 23, 2000 9 PM

Almost two years after he was indicted for using his office for personal gain, Pike County Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair will soon have his day in court.

Judge John Rochester of the 40th Judicial Circuit in Ashland will determine whether or not Blair is guilty of charges in the Pike County Grand Jury indictment issued in April 1998.

Blair, who is being represented by N.J. Cervera, entered a "not guilty" plea in June of last year. A month later, he withdrew his demand for a trial by jury, opting instead to have the case tried by a judge.

But, the case still has not gone to trial and part of the reason is because of the nature of the case.

In August 1998, the case stalled when all three of Pike County’s circuit judges and the two district judges recused themselves due to their working relationship with Blair and asked the Alabama Supreme Court to find a judge from outside the circuit.

That is when Rochester was ordered by Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr. to hear the case.

"I’ve been trying to put out other fires," Rochester said of the delay.

Now that Rochester has talked with the attorneys involved, the case should go to trial in the near future.

"It will be something I’ll do very quickly." Rochester said, adding he hopes to hear the case in the next two or three weeks.

In the meantime, Blair continues to hold the office of revenue commissioner. Blair served as tax collector from 1979 until 1997 when the offices of tax collector and tax assessor were merged into the position of revenue commissioner for Pike County. Blair was elected to serve as revenue commissioner for a six-year term, which began in 1997.

That 1998 indictment stated Blair "did use an official position or office…with the intent to obtain direct personal financial gain." A second count stated the Grand Jury found Blair "did with the intent to knowingly… obtain direct personal financial gain by failing and/or refusing to pay penalties and/or interest owed on the delinquent taxes of himself or that of his family."

District Attorney Mark Fuller said he is seeking a swift resolution to the case and is hopeful that testimony will be heard before Judge Rochester by the end of April.