I mentioned in that blog the arrest of publisher/reporter Mark Thomason and his attorney Russel Stookey and promised to run a more detailed report about the case.
Here it is.
In June of 2016, in the State of Georgia, Chief Judge Brenda Weaver of Appalachian Circuit asked her own former law clerk, and now the local prosecutor Alison Sosebee to prosecute investigative journalist and publisher Mark Thomason and his attorney Russel Stookey for making an open records request seeking evidence of corruption in her own office.
Alison Sosebee obliged the judge, in front of whom Sosebee appears or may appear as a prosecutor and has a stake at pleasing her in order to win cases, and charged Mark Thomason and attorney Russel Stookey, had them arrested and put in jail.
Here are the anti-heroes and heroes of this story:
#JudgeBrendaWeaver, Chief Judge of Appalachian Circuit Superior Courts, State of Georgia
and Judge Weaver's former law clerk, #DistrictAttorneyAlisonSosebee who Judge Weaver asked to criminally prosecute a reporter and the reporter's attorney for investigating whether certain checks in court operating account was cashed illegally, through open records requests and subpoenas on the bank:
the racist judge Roger Bagley whose racist comment that was supposed to be reflected in the court audio file Mark Thomason and Russel Stookey seek through a lawsuit where the supboenas that are the basis of the criminal chargers were issued, I understand, by attorney Stookey:
and the victims of misconduct of the above three individuals, along with those who colluded with them, publisher Mark Thomason and his courageous attorney Russell Stookey:
Let's note that Mark Thomason and Russel Stookey, both white, filed a lawsuit and went to jail over their stance to fight racism in the courtroom by this white judge, now former judge Roger Bradley, where Judge Bradley resigned, of course, because "the planets aligned" in favor of his resignation, not because he outed himself in a criminal proceeding as a racist.
Let's also note that both sets here, the three anti-heroes in this story, two judges and one prosecutor who is one of the judges' former law clerk, are white, too, and that the whole fight is over a record that would prove a racist slur uttered by a quickly-resigned white male judge at a criminal proceeding against an African American criminal defendant.
By the way, in her election campaign, prosecutor Alison Sosebee pledged the following:
Prosecutor Sosebee, apparently, forgot to mention that she will use her authority to provide protection, at taxpayer's expense, to her former boss, Judge Weaver, protection against investigative journalists.
Mark Thomason sent the public records requests - and subpoenas - to the banks where judicial expense accounts are maintained, and asked for copies of checks "cashed illegally".
Judge Weavier claimed that for subpoenas Mark Thomason had to have judicial approval.
I am not sure about the laws of the State of Georgia, but in New York, for example, an attorney can issue a non-judicial subpoena seeking bank records.
And, on subpoenas, the name of the judge appears even though an attorney signs it - that is, once again, a routine occurrence, and such power is actually given to attorneys, with some exceptions.
Usually, when a non-judicial subpoena is signed by an attorney, the court (or the supboenaed organization or individual) simply rejects that subpoena - although in some cases, like a divorce case that was reported to me recently, a New York #judgePhillipRumsey wholly endorsed an attorney, Dolores Fogarty, signing judicial subpoenas that had to be signed by a judge, after a motion brought in a certain way (which Fogarty, of course, never brought).
Of course, attorney #DoloresFogarty who has connections to local judges, was never charged with identity fraud at all.
By the way, Judge Rumsey retaliated against me for criticizing his actions in the divorce case, including favoritism to Dolores Fogarty.
Even if Mark Thomason and his attorney Russel Stookey had to have judicial approval for subpoenas and did not seek that approval, that was a mistake at best, and not a crime, and criminally charging for what must be available through an open records request, is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment of Mr. Thomason and of due process of his attorney Russel Stookey.
And yet, the reporter and his attorney were charged criminally, at the request of the investigated person, a judge, with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud, as well as arrested, kept overnight in jail and released only on $10,000 bail, with conditions of bail such as random drug tests.
And, by the way, reportedly, Judge Brenda Weaver presides over the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, so she is supposed to be the cleanliest of the squeaky clean of the Georgia state judiciary.
Georgia is a death penalty state, so all judges in a state where judges are allowed to take people's lives should be of the highest integrity and moral order.
Judge Weaver did not even conceal the fact that she retaliated by requesting to criminally charge the reporter and the reporter's attorney for investigations into her own behavior, reportedly stating regarding her request to prosecute Mr. Thomason and attorney Stookey:
“I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned". Really? So, the judge openly admitted to this level of retaliation, and she is still on the bench?
Judge Weaver does not have a dislike to reporters in general.
In fact, she was very nice talking to a reporter Josh Becker who was advertising the judge's superior moral qualities in two video interviews.
In the interview, Brenda Weaver stated that she recently became a president of the Council of the Superior Court Judges of the State of Georgia and that her goals as the President of that organization are:
- obtain a pay raise for Superior Court Judges in the State of Georgia, including appellate judges - but, of course! that must be an "over-arching goal" in a State with a death penalty, racist justice system, high illiteracy and poverty;
- develop a "better working relationship with state representatives and senators" - in other words, lobbying in the State Legislature on behalf of judges;
- proliferation of "accountability courts" in the State of Georgia and encouraging judges to become accountability court judges, making sure every Circuit in the State of Georgia has some type of "accountability courts";
In her videointerview Judge Weaver stated that she is
"very humbled to be able to serve the citizens of [her] Circuit and State", that
she is "very lucky to get up every day", that she loves what she does.
Judge Weaver stated that being a judge in a felony court, Veterans and Drugs court "makes every day a wonderful experience" for her, because she gets an opportunity to make a change or cause people to make a change in their lives, and that portion of her job (that makes her every day a "wonderful experience") is what makes her to continue her job as a judge - "for another 20 years if possible", she said (after 15 she already worked as a judge by the time of the interview).
Yet, Judge Weaver's "wonderful experience" apparently also includes protecting from disclosure bank expense records of the court, and of the former #JudgeRogerBradley who quickly resigned from office after being exposed for using a racial slur against a criminal defendant in court proceedings and after the judge, or somebody else in authority in the court system, which could be Judge Brenda Weaver herself, had the stenographer remove that racial slur from the transcript of court proceedings, which is public fraud.
Judge Roger Bradley reportedly repeated the pitch of a prosecutor who, when calling the next case on the docket, called an "N-word Last Name". Neither Judge Bradley nor the prosecutor were sanctioned, apparently indicating that what they did was appropriate for Judge Brenda Weaver and a standard procedure of dealing with African American defendants in court - the "wonderful experience" that keeps Judge Weaver on the bench for the last 15 years.
The reporter Mark Thomason sought the audio recording from which the stenographer made the transcript.
Access to that digital filie was denied, and when Mark Thomason sued for access to the audio file, the stenographer sued Mark Thomason for 1.6 million dollars in a defamation counterclaim.
The stenographer then withdrew her counterclaim, ending it as a matter of law, but still sought attorney fees against Mark Thomason, and somehow that frivolous claim was allowed to proceed, even though normally, if you withdraw a claim, it dies, and everything with it dies.
Mark Thomason's lawsuit for the audio file was dismissed for alleged failure to prove that the audio file was altered, without giving him that audio file for discovery. It is interesting a person can be expected to prove something in the initial pleading in order to be allowed to see what he seeks to see.
That's the problem I recently discussed regarding the Fenton case and other civil rights cases where federal courts change the pleading standard from claim/notice pleading to factual pleading, requiring plaintiffs to prove what they seek to prove through the lawsuit.
Obviously, the state of Georgia made the same shift - specifically to protect its judiciary from claims of misconduct.
After all, it would have been a decidedly awkward situation if prosecutor Alison Sosebe, former law clerk of Judge Weaver, would have to investigate and charge Judge Weaver and other judges and court personnel, with committing public fraud.
And, had the audio file been released in discovery and expert analysis of the audio file, it would have been a simple "yes" or "no" answer - as to whether the audio file was authentic or edited, whether Judge Rodger Bagley did or did not use that racial slur, and whether the tape was edited, and whether the transcript was doctored.
For example, in a similar case, recently in the state of Louisiana an attorney, Christine Mire, actually obtained an audio recording of a court proceeding before judge #JeanetteKnoll, and has proven, through testimony of witnesses, that the recording, specifically the place where the judge allegedly made disclosures about her conflicts of interest, was added - was "spliced" and contested content added.
When attorney Mire said there was no disclosure of later-discovered conflicts of interest by Judge Knoll at the hearing where attorney Mire was present and was thus a witness, the transcript said there was, and the audio file was edited and contents added on specifically as to that disclosure.
Who was disciplined after and because attorney Mire obtained proof that the court audio file was cooked?
Of course, not.
Attorney Mire was disciplined, on Judge Knoll's complaint.
The judge #JeanetteKnoll was elevated to the appellate court, complained to that appellate court, and that appellate court suspended attorney Mire's law license - for being too good at investigation of judicial misconduct.
As to Mark Thomason's case, if the audio file would be shown to be authentic, unredacted and exactly matching the stenographer's transcript - with no racial slur stated by former Judge Roger Bradley, there was no point to block access to it, was it?
Nor would a judge resign if he knew that the audio file did not contain the racial slur and that he is being accused improperly.
Yet, Mark Thomason's access to that record was blocked twice, once when he sought the audio file through an open records request, and another time when he did that through a lawsuit.
And, "coincidentally", the attorney who had the courage to take the case seeking records of judicial misconduct on behalf of Mr. Thomason, Russel Stookey, ended up charged with a crime, arrested and put in jail.
So, the court system in the State of Georgia, and its Chief Judge Brenda Weaver, shamefully continue to cover up for a racist judge, now by asking her former law clerk, a prosecutor, to intimidate by criminal charges, arrest and jailing those who seek evidence of her own and her subordinates' mismanagement of state money - paying out of public court expense account the $16,000 to the stenographer's attorneys in order to to kill the lawsuit seeking the audio file with the racial slur of Judge Bagley.
Mark Thomason was seeking copies of checks for those attorney fees to the stenographer's attorney, reportedly authorized by Judge Weaver.
A lot of integrity on behalf of Judge Brenda Weaver and prosecutor Alison Sosebe.
Just as promised in their respective public statements to voters.
As I already described earlier in this blog, the judicial system, although unquestionably racist, viciously fights against anybody who tries to fight that racism.
In Kentucky, a #JudgeOluStevens was recently suspended for insisting on constitutionally required process of picking criminal juries and preventing a racist prosecutor from eliminating African Americans from the juries in trials of African American defendants, a requirement of the U.S. Supreme Court's so-called Batson rule.
On May 23, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a criminal conviction for violation of the Batson rule and of skewed racial composition of the jury.
Yet, in the State of Georgia African-American criminal defendants, and other litigants, do not have to worry about the Batson rule where both the judge and the judge's former law clerk, and now prosecutor, vigorously seek to intimidate and punish two people for seeking proof that a judge is a racist, and that the court system paid for the cover-up of that racism with taxpayers' money.
I wonder whether Judge Weaver and prosecutor Sosebee will be disciplined for their role in the arrest of Mark Thomason and attorney Russel Stookey.
The Society of Professional Journalists of Georgia already called for investigation of Judge Brenda Weaver, and for recusal of Judge Weaver (who is the Chairman of the commission that is supposed to investigate her) from such investigation.
Good luck with that - in my case, I was suspended for seeking recusal of a judge because of collusion with Vice-Chair of the Commission for Judicial Conduct in the investigation of the judge regarding a collusion in a criminal case.
I was also punished for seeking investigation and disbarment of attorneys for two disciplinary committees when they adamantly refuse to investigate themselves (from which they are obviously disqualified) or to have a special investigator and prosecutor appointed.
The same refers to judges sought to be recused for misconduct - they usually refuse and lash out against the challenger, as it happened in my case and in many more cases I am aware of.
If Judge Weaver stooped to using her former law clerk to criminally prosecute investigative reporters who sought public records that may implicate her or her subordinates in mishandling public money, there is not much Judge Weaver will not consider too low to stoop down to.
And, let's not forget that reporter Thomason is also charged with "making a false statement in an open records request" - requesting copies of checks "cashed illegally".
Please, tell me, what is a false statement in a request?
How is it possible to make a false statement in a request?
If a person asks for copies of checks "cashed illegally", the answer can be - if there are no checks cashed illegally, then the request is denied becuase there are no records answering the request, the way it is worded, that's all.
But, there is no legal possibility of charging a person for fraud for making a false statement in an open records request - other than if the prosecutor is the friend and former law clerk of the judge who asks for the prosecution.
I wonder whether the judge and her former law clerk, the prosecutor, will be charged by the State Attorney General for a crime based on their respective roles in this story. At least, such a request has been made to the Attorney Genera of the State of Georgia.
That is, despite Mark Thomason - and people like him, seeking open records of the government - was addressed in a demeaning manner, by a "former public prosecutor", as a "public gadfly", something stinging, but decidedly with a negative connotation of a pest.
I do not see anybody discussing Judge Weaver were addressing Judge Weaver with any labels.
The only label I am going to give her, and prosecutor Sosebee, is that of a public anti-hero who should be removed from their positions immediately.
For continued coverage of this mess, stay tuned.