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Charges dropped against publisher in open records case

   Per the request of Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver, three felony charges have been dropped against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and his attorney Russell Stookey in a case that has drawn criticism from across the state.

   Thomason and Stookey both spent time in jail on June 24th after a Pickens County grand jury indicted them on identity fraud, attempted identity fraud and making false statements.

 

         The charges are the result of a highly convoluted case that dates back to a racial slur that was made in the Fannin County Courthouse and requests for copies of a check through open records and subpoenas.

   Thomason said he was being silenced for investigating a judge and for seeking information about public funds. Judge Weaver and Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee claimed Thomason inappropriately presented documents at banks to obtain check records that could have been made available through other channels. Both have maintained that Thomason was not indicted over open records requests, and that they have issue with the way he went about getting the information. Both parties have said they believe there are personal vendettas at play.

         In her letter to the district attorney requesting the charges be dismissed, Weaver said she “has many other cases with victims who have been harmed much more, and they need your attention and time. As a citizen and certainly as a Judge, I in no way want to infringe upon the First Amendment Rights…That certainly was never my intent in testifying as a witness before the grand jury in this matter.”   

   The Society of Professional Journalists is “thrilled” the charges were dropped, but said it’s not enough in a recent press release.

   “SPJ Georgia is continuing to pursue its complaint against Judge Weaver filed with the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Because Weaver is chair of the commission, SPJ Georgia has requested she recuse herself from all matters involving our complaint.