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IPFS News Link • Justice and Judges

Judge Sics Cops on Journalist for Requesting Public Court Docs -- Has Him Arrested, Charged


Fannin County, GA – In a disturbing use of state power for retaliatory purposes, a Georgia Superior Court judge initiated felony charges against a local newspaper publisher for filing an open-records request.

Mark Thomason, publisher of Fannin Focus, had been trying to access courtroom transcripts and copies of certain checks from court bank accounts, but ran into fierce opposition from chief judge Brenda Weaver and the district attorney. Thomason and his attorney, Russell Stookey, were arrested last Friday.

"Thomason was charged June 24 with making a false statement in an open-records request in which he asked for copies of checks "cashed illegally." Thomason and Stookey were also charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud because they did not get Weaver's approval before sending subpoenas to banks where Weaver and another judge maintained accounts for office expenses. Weaver suggested that Thomason may have been trying to steal banking information on the checks."

The suggestion that Thomason was trying to steal banking information has no basis in reality, of course, and only adds insult to injury for a journalist simply doing his job. Identifying information can be redacted before being made public, as Weaver undoubtedly knows.

But the vindictive judge made it plain to see that her aggression is based on nothing more than emotion.

"I don't react well when my honesty is questioned," Weaver said. "It's clear this is a personal vendetta against me. I don't know how else to explain that."

Even if Thomason has no love for Weaver, the punitive use of the Open Records Act represents a shocking level of judicial retaliation against citizens exercising their right to see how taxpayer money is being spent.

In addition to having to post a $10,000 bond to get out of jail, Thomason must submit to random drug tests, and both defendants must adhere to a "long list of things they cannot do or things they must do to avoid going to jail until their trials."

"I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had," said Thomason, 37, who grew up in Fannin County. "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."