Groups laud dismissal of charges against publisher

ATLANTA — A Fannin County prosecutor’s move to dismiss charges against a local newspaper publisher jailed after requesting public records is the right call, say a group of Georgia government transparency and media organizations.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation, the Atlanta Press Club and the Georgia Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists had called on changes against Fannin Focus editor Mark Thomason to be dropped.

Thomason was arrested on June 24 and charged with attempted identity fraud, identity fraud and making a false statement. Chief Judge Brenda Weaver pushed for the charges after Thompson filed an open records request for copies of certain checks documenting spending from judicial operating accounts.

The charges were dropped at Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee’s request. Weaver, who was named on one of the accounts included in Thomason’s open records request and initially had pushed for the indictments against the journalist.

In a July 6 letter, Weaver acknowledged that protecting citizens’ rights to report on perceived wrongs is important to “the integrity of our system of government.” She urged the district attorney to dismiss the matter.

“As a citizen and certainly as a Judge, I in no way want to diminish or infringe upon the First Amendment Rights we have under the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Georgia,” Weaver wrote in the letter.

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