This is a photo of former Assistant County Prosecutor Michael A. Prisley taken by his cousin, Grisha Ressitar, on the day Prisley was released from prison in July. Photo provided.

Former Assistant Athens County Prosecutor Michael A. “Mickey” Prisley has died at age 53, The NEWS confirmed last Friday (Sept. 6) with the Franklin County Coroner’s Office and some of his former colleagues and family.

Prisley, who grew up in Athens, was released from federal prison on July 1, a family member told The NEWS, after spending less than a year incarcerated on one count of conspiracy to submit false claims for income-tax refunds with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He initially was sentenced to a little more than a year in prison.

Nick Ressetar, Prisley’s cousin, wrote in an email this week that Prisley was released from prison in July due to good behavior and previous time served, and was living in a Columbus-based “halfway house” until Aug. 26. Ressetar provided a brief statement on behalf of Prisley’s family.

“On behalf of the Prisley-Dove-Ressetar family, we express our shock, sorrow and deep sadness on the loss of our beloved nephew and cousin, Mickey Prisley,” the statement reads. “He finally lost his battle with multiple addictions and is now at peace with his departed parents. We join in solidarity all those other families who have lost loved ones to addiction, especially opioid related.”

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn confirmed Friday last week that he had been informed that Prisley had passed away.

“The cause of death is not official yet but it’s presumed to be an overdose,” Blackburn said.

A Franklin County Coroner’s Office representative confirmed Friday that Prisley’s body was being examined by that agency, though that was the only thing that the representative said she could confirm.

Ian James, a former Athens resident and Ohio University graduate who now lives in Columbus, wrote in a public Facebook post last week that the body of Prisley, his “friend and brother,” was found by the Upper Arlington Ohio Police Department Wednesday morning. Upper Arlington is a suburb of Columbus.

“It is believed that Mickey, like so many other addicts, succumbed to his addiction,” James wrote. “The statistics are clear: like so many addicts who come through rehab or incarceration ‘clean,’ find themselves with the freedom to use again. In doing so, his body was incapable of tolerating the level of drugs he ingested.”

Blackburn previously told The NEWS that Prisley struggled with drug addiction, which is why he was terminated from Athens County Prosecutor’s Office employment in January 2014.

Blackburn said Friday that he’s “saddened” by the loss.

“Mickey was an extremely talented, passionate prosecutor who for a long time struggled with addiction, and that addiction caused a lot of harm to his personal life, professional life, and eventually his freedom when he was convicted in federal court,” Blackburn said.

He added that Prisley, while a prosecutor, did plenty of “great things” for Athens County.

Athens-based attorney Robert Toy (also a former assistant prosecutor for Athens County) in a brief comment Saturday echoed Blackburn’s comments. “He was a great guy (and) a good lawyer, but unfortunately (had) bad issues in reference to alcohol and drugs,” Toy said about Prisley. “But I miss him greatly; he was a good friend.”

Prisley initially was indicted by a federal grand jury in Columbus last November on eight charges relating to fraudulent tax claims and theft of government money.

According to a release from U.S. District Attorney Benjamin Glassman last year, Prisley “conspired with others” between the fall of 2009 and September 2015 to defraud the IRS by filing hundreds of false income-tax returns in an attempt to obtain tax refunds; he would deposit those refund checks into his bank accounts and withdraw them in order to pay his “co-conspirators” their share, while receiving drugs in exchange for cashing those checks.

Prisley was a long-time local assistant prosecutor and served in that capacity from Aug. 29, 2011, to Jan. 21, 2014, according to a prior interview with Blackburn. (Prisley also served in that role through much of the ’90s.)

The Columbus-based law firm where Prisley most recently worked, Yavitch & Palmer, memorialized Prisley in a Facebook post Thursday.

“Ultimately, this profession and this world were too much for him,” partner Stephen E. Palmer wrote. “I corresponded with Mickey a few times in the past year. And I had hope that he would rebound and return somehow to a productive life. He had the potential. But he was over-exposed and lacked the tools to cope with it. I’m not just saddened by this loss on a personal level. It’s bigger than that. Mickey had lots more to offer.”

James – who was one of the leading forces behind the Issue 3 marijuana legalization ballot issue several years ago – added in a Facebook message that he believes Ohio should authorize medical marijuana as a treatment for opioid addiction.

“The madness of this state forbidding such treatment, while addicts are continually pumped full of dangerous and deadly narcotics, is in many ways, as useful as blood-letting with leaches,” James said. 

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