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(Gawker) Newspaper Publisher Indicted and Jailed After Bizarre Open Records Request Saga

The publisher of a small weekly newspaper in Georgia was indicted last week for filing an open records request with a local court, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. The story Mark Thomason was going after with his request is almost as strange as the fact that he was charged with a felony and jailed overnight after filing it.

Thomason, the publisher of Fannin Focus, was arrested and charged with making a false statement in his request and with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud, a felony. Russell Stookey, his attorney, was also charged with identity fraud. Brenda Weaver, chief judge of the local superior court, was “incensed” by Thomason’s request, and asked the district attorney for the indictments. The two men were jailed overnight and released on $10,000 bond, with trial upcoming.

Public records requests, sometimes referred to as FOIA requests, are one of the most useful and necessary tools in the arsenal of any reporter who covers the government. The laws in all 50 states and the federal government provide some mechanism for filing them. The implications of sending a reporter to jail for using this perfectly legal reporting technique are pretty scary, and probably don’t need to be spelled out here.



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