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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Did Judge Overstep Bounds When She Jailed Newspaper Publisher? Isn't That What Happens In Third World Countries?

North Georgia newspaper publisher jailed over open records request

Updated: 11:45 a.m. Friday, July 1, 2016  |  Posted: 7:09 p.m. Thursday, June 30, 2016

‘Retaliation for use of the Open Records Act will inhibit every citizen from using it.’

A North Georgia newspaper publisher was indicted on a felony charge and jailed overnight last week – for filing an open-records request.
Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, along with his attorney Russell Stookey, were arrested on Friday and charged with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud. Thomason was also accused of making a false statement in his records request.
Thomason’s relentless pursuit of public records relating to the local Superior Court has incensed the court’s chief judge, Brenda Weaver, who also chairs the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Weaver took the matter to the district attorney, who obtained the indictments.
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.
But Thomason said he was “doing his job” when he asked for records.
“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.”
Thomason and Stookey are out on $10,000 bond and have a long list of things they cannot do or things they must do to avoid going to jail until their trials. On Thursday, for example, Thomason reported to a pretrial center and was told that he may have to submit to a random drug test – a condition of the bond on which he was released from jail last Saturday.
Alison Sosebee, district attorney in the three counties in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, and Judge Weaver say the charges are justified. Weaver said she resented Thomason’s attacks on her character in his weekly newspaper and in conversations with her constituents.
“I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned,” Weaver said.
She said others in the community were using Thomason to get at her. “It’s clear this is a personal vendetta against me,” she said. “I don’t know how else to explain that.”
But legal experts expressed dismay at the punitive use of the Open Records Act.
“To the extent these criminal charges stem from the use of the Open Records Act undermines the entire purpose of the law,” said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. “The Open Records Act is the vehicle by which citizens access governmental information… Retaliation for use of the Open Records Act will inhibit every citizen from using it, and reel us back into the dark ages.”
Another expert said the charges against attorney Russell Stookey may also be unfounded. Robert Rubin, president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said it was wrong for the grand jury to indict a lawyer who “is using the legitimate court process for a subpoena to get records relevant for his case.” The dispute grows out of a March 2015 incident involving another judge who is no longer on the bench. Judge Roger Bradley was presiding over several cases and asked the name of the next defendant. The assistant district attorney announced next up was “(Racial slur) Ray.” Bradley, who resigned earlier this year, repeated the slur and also talked about another man whose street name started with the same slur.
Thomason asked for the transcript after he was told courtroom deputies also used the slur.
But the transcript only noted that Bradley and the assistant district attorney used the word.
According to Thomason, the court reporter told him that it was “off the record” when others in the courtroom spoke the word so it would not be recorded in the transcript. He asked to listen to the audio recording, but his request was rejected.
In an article Thomason quoted the court reporter as saying the slur was not taken down each time it was used.
And then Thomason asked Stookey to file paperwork with the court to force the the stenographer, Rhonda Stubblefield, to release the recording.
Stubblefield responded with a $1.6 million counterclaim against Thomason, accusing him of defaming her in stories that said the transcript she produced may not be accurate. Two months later a visiting judge closed Thomason’s case, concluding that Thomason had not produced evidence the transcript was inaccurate.
Last April, Stubblefield dropped her counterclaim because, her lawyer wrote, it was unlikely Thomason could pay the award if she won.
The next month, however, Stubblefield filed paper work to recoup attorney’s fees even though last last year she was cut a check for almost $16,000 from then-Judge Bradley’s operating account.
“She was being accused of all this stuff. She was very distressed. She had done absolutely nothing wrong,” Weaver said of the judges’ decision to use court money to cover Stubblefield’s legal expenses. “She was tormented all these months and then had to pay attorneys’ fees. And the only reason she was sued was she was doing what the court policy was.”
Stubblefield’s lawyer, Herman Clark, said in court Stubblefield was asking for the money from Thomason or his attorney so she could replace the funds taken out of the court bank account. Clark said it was unfair to expect taxpayers to pick up the cost.
To fight Stubblefield’s claim for legal fees, Stookey filed subpoenas for copies of certain checks so he could show her attorneys had already been paid. One of those two accounts listed in a subpoena had Weaver’s name on it as well as the Appalachian Judicial Circuit.
Weaver said the identify fraud allegations came out of her concern that Thomason would use the banking information on those checks for himself.
“I have absolutely no interest in further misappropriating any government monies,” Thomason said. “My sole goal was to show that legal fees were paid from a publicly funded account.”

Once Again Sarah Palin Nails It!

Palin calls anti-Trump Republicans ‘RATs’

Former Governor of  Alaska and failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says members of the GOP who haven’t yet warmed to GOP hopeful Donald Trump need to remember “you are either with us or against us” in 2016.
Palin made the remarks at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver.
“We’re talking about the direction of our country, our children’s future, the direction of the Supreme Court. All of this hinging on the next election, and at such a time as this, you cannot be lukewarm,” she said. “We’re going to take our country back, and you’re either with us, or you’re against us.”
The former governor said that anti-Trump Republicans will prove to be a huge asset for Hillary Clinton in the general election.
“Those GOPers who insist they will never vote for their party’s choice this time, they call themselves Never Trump or whatever. I just call them Republicans against Trump, or RAT for short,” she said
“Now, I shouldn’t call them thumbsuckers, because they are not all bad,” she added. “I’m kidding. They are, and Hillary [Clinton] thanks them because she cannot win without them.”
Palin said claims from Democrats, and some moderate Republicans, that Trump is racist are “ridiculous” and obviously false.
“Trump has been covered in the spotlight for decades, years and years, showing so many of his friends and colleagues of every race color and creed. Great relationships with them all,” she said. “See the press knows that, because they’re the ones who did the covering of him, and Trump was never called a racist until he decided to run against the Democrats. And that’s the way that the dirty side of this business works. Believe me.”

Judge Goes After Religion Every Time He Rules

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves (Photo: Mississippi State University)
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves (Photo: Mississippi State University)
A federal judge appointed by President Obama has struck down a Mississippi law – hours before it was set to take effect Friday – that would have protected the religious freedom of clerks and businesses that refuse to participate in same-sex marriages.
In his 60-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves stated that the law, known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” or H.B. 1523, is unconstitutional and would “diminish the rights of LGBT citizens.”
“The state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” Reeves said, according to CNN.
“HB 1523 does not advance the interest the State says it does,” he continued. “Under the guise of providing additional protection for religious exercise, it creates a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s not rationally related to a legitimate end.”
Reeves also wrote: “Religious freedom was one of the building blocks of this great nation, and after the nation was torn apart, the guarantee of equal protection under law was used to stitch it back together. But HB 1523 does not honor that tradition of religion freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi’s citizens. It must be enjoined.”
State attorneys plan to appeal Reeves’ ruling, according to the Associated Press.
Reeve’s decision comes less than two years after he struck down the state’s statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
In a statement to the press, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he’s “disappointed” and anticipates “an aggressive appeal.”
“Like I said when I signed House Bill 1523, the law simply provides religious accommodations granted by many other states and federal law,” Bryant said. “I am disappointed Judge Reeves did not recognize that reality. I look forward to an aggressive appeal.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also vehemently objected to Reeves’ decision.
“While Judge Reeves issued his decree under the cloak of darkness last night, the judge’s religious animus against the people of Mississippi is clear as day,” said Perkins, according to Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger. “Under this judge’s reasoning, any narrowly tailored conscience or religious freedom protections against government persecution would be invalid.”

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves
Reeves’ reputation for anti-faith rulings 
As WND reported, Judge Carlton Reeves, who was nominated by Obama in 2010, once punished a school district for allowing a voluntary prayer at an optional awards ceremony.
Judge Reeves has established a reputation for going for the jugular when an issue of faith is at play.
He first ruled that a Mississippi school student’s rights were violated because she was offended by a prayer at a public school event.
Then he reached off campus, fining the school $7,500, for allowing a pastor to prayer at an optional awards ceremony.
The judge determined that Rankin County schools must work harder to excise Christian faith from its students’ education, and he threatened the district with a $10,000 fine if it happens again.
It was the ruling by Reeves regarding the school that later created a stir in Mississippi.
His decision resulted in the school’s band being benched from a halftime show at a football game, because as part of their musical presentation, they included the melody from “How Great Thou Art.” Columnist Todd Starnes at Fox News said the judge may issue an order, but the people may not necessarily bend to his whim.
He reported the people decided “a message had to be sent to the likes of Judge Reeves.”
“And what they did – would become known as the musical shot heard around the world. During halftime of Friday night’s game – a lone voice began to sing the forbidden song. ‘Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,’ the singer sang. Brittany Mann was there and she witnessed the entire moment of defiance,” Starnes wrote.
“We were just sitting there and then one by one people started to stand,” she told Starnes. “At first, it started out as a hum but the sound got louder and louder.”
Soon “hundreds” were singing.
“At that moment I was so proud of my town – coming together and taking a stand for something we believe in,” she told Starnes. “It breaks my heart o see where our country is going – getting farther and farther away from the Christian beliefs that our country was founded on.”
Documentation of hate against Christians
WND previously has documented the Big List of cases where there have been government rulings that removed religious rights from Christians.
Missouri State University, for example, dismissed a student from a counseling program for expressing opposition to counseling same-sex duos.
In Texas, David and Edie Delmore, who own a bakery, were approached by Ben Valencia and Luis Marmolejo about a cake for a “gay wedding.” They declined, referring the potential customers to other bakers. Subsequently, they claim their home has been vandalized and their son has been threatened with rape by a broken beer bottle.
One business even was attacked for answering a hypothetical question on the issue.
Family owned Memories Pizza in Indiana came into the crosshairs of homosexuals when an owner was interviewed by a local TV station in the aftermath of the adoption of the state’s religious freedom law. Responding to a reporter’s question, the owner said that while her restaurant serves “gays,” her Christian faith wouldn’t allow her to cater a “gay wedding.” The restaurant immediately became a focal point of outrage toward the law, with threats of death and destruction, causing the owners to shut down their business.

Copyright 2016 WND


Lynch In Trouble After Advising Bill Clinton That Hillary Will Be Indicted. "Justice" Department Becomes Politicized

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton
The fallout from Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s private, off-the-record meeting with ex-President Bill Clinton in an airplane at the Phoenix airport is expanding, with Washington watchdog Judicial Watch now asking the Department of Justice inspector general to investigate.
“Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton severely undermined the already low public confidence in her agency’s criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “In addition to this IG investigation, Judicial Watch has already sent Freedom of Information Act requests about this scandalous meeting.”
Judicial Watch has been a key player in the continuing pressure on authorities to investigate Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information through a private email server while she was secretary of state.
It was a Judicial Watch case seeking government records that  exposed Clinton’s homebrew email system. Judicial Watch is now taking depositions from Clinton’s aides.
A federal judge has left open the possibility that Hillary Clinton may end up being deposed in the case.
The new complaint about Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton cites “18 USC §§ 202 – 209; Executive Order 12674 on Principles of Ethical Conduct as amended by EO 12731; Uniform Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 CFR Part 2635; Department of Justice regulations, 5 CFR Part 3801; Department of Justice regulations, 28 CFR Part 45; Executive branch standards of conduct, 5 USC § 735; and, United States Department of Justice Ethics Handbook for On and Off-Duty Conduct, 14 Principles for Ethical Conduct.”
The law says employees “shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards set forth in this part.”
“Whether particular circumstances create an appearance that the law or these standards have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts.”

And federal employees are instructed “to avoid any actions creating the appearance that the employee is violating the law or the ethical standards set forth in this part.”
The complaint elaborates:
Attorney General Loretta Lynch met privately with former President William J. Clinton on board a parked private plane on the west side of Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona on June 29, 2016, according to multiple press reports.
“President Clinton is the spouse of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former Secretary of State, who is purportedly the subject of a national security crime investigation pertaining to the mishandling of national defense information processed by Mrs. Clinton’s personal server during her tenure as secretary.
Additionally, there are press reports that a federal public corruption investigation is on-going concerning conflicts of interest and abuse of official government office involving the financial “commitments” to the Clinton Foundation, speaking fees for President Clinton and former Secretary Clinton’s official acts. President Clinton may be a target of that investigation.
Attorney General Lynch’s meeting with President Clinton creates the appearance of a violation of law, ethical standards and good judgment. Attorney General Lynch’s decision to breach the well-defined ethical standards of the Department of Justice and the American legal profession is an outrageous abuse of the public’s trust. Her conduct and statements undermine confidence in her ability to objectively investigate and prosecute possible violations of law associated with President Clinton and Secretary Clinton. This incident undermines the public’s faith in the fair administration of justice. Simply stated, Attorney General Lynch’s June 29, 2016 meeting with former President Clinton creates the broad public impression that “the fix is in.”
The New York Times on Friday reported on Lynch’s attempt to defuse the controversy by saying she will “accept” the recommendations of “career prosecutors” in the Clinton case.
“Her decision removes the possibility that a political appointee will overrule investigators in the case,” the report claimed.
Lynch said the meeting “was a great deal about grandchildren, it was primarily social about our travels and he mentioned golf he played in Phoenix.”
She claimed the meeting, about 30 minutes long, did not include any discussion about issues pending before the Department of Justice.
The revelations about the meeting triggered a groundswell of demands that Lynch recuse herself from any decision in the case.
She subsequently declined to remove herself from the case, instead releasing a Justice Department comment that she will accept the career prosecutors’ recommendation.
Lynch’s denial that she and Bill Clinton discussed the investigation did not satisfy others, either.
“In light of the apparent conflicts of interest, I have called repeatedly on Attorney General Lynch to appoint a special counsel to ensure the investigation is as far from politics as possible,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
And Michael Cutler at Front Page Magazine offered a simple solution to all the questions of propriety that are being raised.
“The stakes could not be higher – yet Loretta Lynch acted in a way that she should have clearly understood created that illusion of wrong-doing. … It is impossible to understand her motivation or what she was thinking as she sat on her airplane meeting with Bill Clinton – but one thing is now perfectly clear, she must recuse herself from any involvement in the decision making process where the investigation/prosecution of Hillary Clinton is concerned,” he wrote.
Former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams, at PJ Media, also sounded off.
“Whenever Bill Clinton gets on a plane to meet a woman, he’s usually up to no good,” he wrote. “Attorney General Loretta Lynch said her impromptu tarmac summit at Phoenix Sky Harbor was a purely social affair. Golf and grandchildren were on the agenda, she said – and not how a home-brew server crammed with classified information ended up in Bill’s basement.
“However, the attorney general normally doesn’t meet with family members of a target in an active FBI criminal investigation. Hillary is just that – a target in an FBI criminal investigation.”
He continued: “Many won’t believe Lynch and Clinton only discussed grandkids and golf in her cozy jet. But I do. That’s all they needed to discuss for Bill to interfere with a criminal prosecution. Sophisticated insiders don’t need to use clumsy and explicit language. Merely having the tarmac summit interferes with the investigation, even if golf and grandkids were the only topics discussed. The tarmac summit sent a signal. It is a signal to all of the hardworking FBI agents who have the goods on Hillary.
“The attorney general has made it clear what team she is on. The attorney general isn’t on the side of justice. She’s on the Democratic Party team. This is the unspoken message from Lynch to all of the FBI agents on the case and to all the front-line lawyers at the Justice Department: When you send your recommendation to refer Hillary’s case to the grand jury, you had better realize your burden to convince me I should sign off on a grand jury request is higher than you thought. These are my friends.”

Copyright 2016 WND