CRIME Newspaper Publisher Thrown in Jail Over Open Records Fight — Read the Indictment Jul. 4, 2016 8:53pm Tré Goins-Phillips

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CRIME
Newspaper Publisher Thrown in Jail Over Open Records Fight — Read the Indictment
Jul. 4, 2016 8:53pm Tré Goins-Phillips
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A rural North Georgia journalist was indicted on a felony charge and jailed overnight last week, all for filing an open-records request.

Mark Thomason, publisher of the Fannin Focus, a local paper, and his attorney Russell Stookey were jailed Friday of last week and charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud. Additionally, Thomason was accused of lying in his open-records request.

According to the Atlantic-Journal Constitution, Thomason’s pursuit of public records relating to the local Superior Court angered Brenda Weaver, the court’s chief judge who also chairs the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission. Frustrated by Thomason’s actions, Weaver took the issue to the district attorney, who obtained the indictments.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The local reporter was charged June 24 for making a false statement in his request, in which he asked for copies of checks ”cashed illegally.” Both Thomason and Stookey were charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud for not seeking express approval before sending the subpoenas to the banks where Weaver and another judge had accounts for office expenses.

According to Weaver, the two men may have been attempting to steal bank information found on the checks. But, in Thomason’s version of the story, he was just “doing his job.”

“I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had,” Thomason, who grew up in the area, told AJC. “I take this as a punch at journalists across the nation that if we continue to do our jobs correctly, then we have to live in fear of being imprisoned.”

Now Thomason and Stookey are out on a $10,000 bond, but have a long list of things they are prohibited from doing if they want to stay out of jail before their trials. Attempting to do his job late last week, Thomason showed up to a pretrial center and was told he may have to submit to a random drug test, which was a condition of his bond.
As out-of-line as Thomason may believe the charges are, Weaver, along with Alison Sosebee, district attorney in the three counties in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, believe the charges are perfectly justified. According to Weaver, Thomason has been att

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