The trial of Jefferson County Sheriff Blair Olsen kicked off Monday with discussion on allegations that his wife used a cell phone paid for by the county.
Olsen is facing three felony charges of misusing public money. He is also accused of intimidating witnesses, which Olsen denies.
“This may be the biggest fight as his almost 40-year career in law enforcement,” Gary Cooper, Olsen’s attorney, told the jury.
Both sides addressed the issue of the cell phone that was in the possession of Olsen’s wife.
Cooper mentioned the Snake River flooding of 1997 to illustrate why the sheriff kept two phones.
“He kept two cell phones,” said Cooper. “He continued to keep two cell phones thereafter, and he’s had two cell phones since the time cell phones came into use.
“He kept two cell phones,” said Cooper. “He continued to keep two cell phones thereafter, and he’s had two cell phones since the time cell phones came into use. There came a time … in about 2003 or 2004 … (when) it became kind of inefficient for him to keep the … backup cell phone running and operating, and he gave it to his wife. He gave it to his wife with the instructions, ‘Keep this cell phone charged … and answer it when people call you.'”
“So the county should pay for Marie Olsen’s cell phone service as an alternative means to get a hold of the sheriff,” said Brenda Bauges of the Attorney General’s Office. “His chief deputy at the time had never called Marie Olsen’s cell phone.”
Witness Rachel Shirley, who worked with Olsen and other sheriff’s office employees regarding Verizon Wireless bills and services, said to her knowledge, the county would pay an extra 50 cents per bill for using the phone in question.
Judge Greg Moeller had the trial moved to Twin Falls County to ensure fairness.#olsentrial