A former deputy clerk in Fayette District Court was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty to tampering with public records.
James Anthony Blythe, 27, must also repay $2,198 in cash that he pocketed as a deputy clerk. The money taken was from fines and fees paid by Spanish-speaking individuals, and should have been going to the court system.
“He told investigators that he chose these individuals because they spoke poor English and would be less likely to discover what he had done,” said Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn.
Before he was indicted in November, Blythe was fired from the job he had held for about two years. He admitted altering 10 case jackets, the envelopes that list a chronology of events in a case and that contain supporting police documents, such as citations.
“The concern I have was that this crime was committed in the courthouse,” Fayette Circuit Judge John Reynolds told Blythe during sentencing. “It’s a public trust, to be in the position that you were in. You were committing a crime in the worst fashion in that you were compromising the confidence of the public in the judicial system.”
The alteration of records all involved traffic citations. Judge Reynolds, citing information from a pre-sentencing investigation, also noted in open court that the cases involved Hispanics.
“You were targeting Hispanics,” Reynolds said. “You were taking advantage either of their lack of comprehension of the English language or maybe they were fearful of being deported ... or some other reason. But you were preying upon Hispanics.”
Blythe, who was in the Fayette County jail on a charge of contempt of court, was initially indicted on 10 counts of tampering with public records. He pleaded guilty in June to five counts of tampering and five amended counts of criminal attempt to tamper with public records.
Fayette Circuit Court Clerk Vince Riggs said last year that the tampering was discovered by a “strict accounting system.”
Defense attorney Derek Gordon said Blythe gave a full confession to police “very early on, before he was actually charged.”
“He’s accepted responsibility from the outset,” Gordon said.
Gordon noted that a probation and parole officer said Blythe is a “good candidate for probation.”
Reynolds said he would consider granting a motion for shock probation that would allow for early release from jail. But Reynolds said Blythe “has had zero consequence so far, other than losing his job, which he should have.”
Blythe has a pending case in Anderson District Court on charges of carrying a concealed deadly weapon, speeding 18 mph over the limit, and other violations. A disposition hearing is scheduled for August in that case.