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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — An eastern Idaho sheriff has been convicted of three felony counts of misuse of public funds.
The Post Register reports (http://bit.ly/1bRZlKw) that a Twin Falls County jury found Jefferson County Sheriff Blair Olsen guilty on Wednesday evening after deliberating about three hours.
The trial was moved because of publicity about the case in Jefferson County.
Prosecutors say Olsen used county money to pay for his wife's cellphone from 2010 to 2012.
"The taxpayers were trusting that the defendant would not use the money for personal use," said Deputy Prosecutor Jason Spillman of the Idaho attorney general's office.
Olsen and his attorney, Gary Cooper, declined to comment after the verdict.
Jurors had to decide whether a county-paid cellphone Olsen issued to his wife, Marie Olsen, violated the law.
Prosecutors played a recording of a 2013 interview Marie Olsen did with Michael Steen, chief investigator for the attorney general's office.
"If he (Sheriff Olsen) needed to get a hold of me, he could; if the kids needed to get a hold of me, they would call me on that (phone)," Marie Olsen told Steen.
Blair Olsen testified in his own defense and said that issuing a county-paid cellphone to his wife was justified. He said he often relied on his wife to keep in contact with employees when he traveled outside a coverage area or if his phone stopped working.
"It is my prerogative to have the phone service available to me," Blair Olsen told jurors. "There was no county commission policy at the time that said otherwise."
Under cross-examination Wednesday, Olsen said he would often "deputize" his wife so she could join him on prisoner transportation.
"She was not a paid employee, no," Olsen said. "But she would be an asset to me and it is in my power under the law to have her help me at times."
A sentencing hearing is set for June 22 in Jefferson County.
Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com
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