Archive for the ‘legal crap’ Category

Asshole update

The racist won.

Well, to be precise, everyone but the racist won.

White supremacist Richard Spencer will speak at the University of Florida, says First Amendment attorney Gary Edinger. As I wrote three days ago, that was in doubt and almost in court.

Edinger represents Carmen Padgett, who’s essentially Spencer’s agent. Last night, Edinger sent me a statement he’s released publicly…

It appears that a resolution can be reached and that litigation will not be necessary. Mr. Padgett has received assurances that Mr. Spencer’s speaking engagement will go forward on a different date, but most likely in the same venue: the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on campus. We have not yet established a new date or terms for the speech.

Edinger blames Hurricane Irma for “the slow pace of our discussions.” But he’s meeting with UF officials by phone this morning “at which time we hope to announce firm details.”

A hurricane and a racist. Not your typical news day.


  • Richard Spencer and his agent won’t extract a cash settlement from another public university, as they did from Auburn in May.
  • Sometime soon, Spencer will speak on a college campus where he’s not wanted.
  • He’ll be met by protesters expressing their Constitutional rights.

The system works. Too bad we can’t negotiate with hurricanes the same way.

Assholes have rights

I stand with this racist.

If you’re a patriotic American, so should you.

Meet Richard Spencer, one of the nation’s best known white supremacists. Actually, he’s most famous for getting the crap kicked out of him.

In Charlottesville last month, the 29-year-old Montanan got pepper-sprayed — and then taunted by the likes of the Washingtonian, which ran this headline: “Stop What You’re Doing and Enjoy These Photos of Richard Spencer Crying.”

Back in January, Spencer got punched in the face at an Inauguration Day rally in DC. Maybe you saw it…

…because it has more than 3 million views and inspired dozens of mocking memes.

Now Spencer wants to speak at the University of Florida, my alma mater. (Is it still my alma mater if I got expelled?) After three weeks of trying, he still hasn’t secured a date. So there might be a lawsuit.

It’s like this…

  • A 23-year-old Georgia State University student named Cameron Padgett is acting as Spencer’s agent, booking him on a national college speaking tour.
  • In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the University of Florida denied Padgett’s request to bring Spencer to campus, citing “serious concerns for safety.”
  • Padgett hired Gary Edinger, a Gainesville First Amendment attorney, to either secure Sept. 12 as a speaking engagement or sue the school.

Padgett has sued before and won. In May, Auburn settled for $29,000 after the public university tried to deny Spencer’s appearance there.

If he sues again, I’ll help.

And I’ll ask for SPJ’s help, too.

Padgett signed a “facility rental contract” for Spencer to speak at the Phillips Center, pictured above. I can’t imagine a racist filling all those seats, but I suspect that’s not the goal.

I beleve Padgett wants to get denied. Why? The math…

  1. If Spencer speaks without getting hassled, he won’t draw 20 people. His real audience isn’t his meager supporters, it’s his copious opponents.
  2. Padgett’s contract with the University of Florida will cost him $6,000 for rent and security. When Auburn refused and later relented, Padgett was paid nearly $30,000.

…which means he could easily be more profiteer than white supremacist.

Thus, helping Padgett get permission for Spencer to speak on campus isn’t just morally correct, it bleeds both crowds and cash from two assholes.

We all have the right to be wrong.

When Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos were similarly denied campus speaking engagements earlier this year, I was stunned by SPJ’s silence.

Journalists know better than most: If the government can mute free speech because of “safety concerns,” two things surely follow…

  1. Protesters will realize threats of violence – or actual violence – are the best way to silence their opponents. Mob rule will overwhelm democratic debate.
  2. Governments will be tempted to cite “public safety” when they just don’t want to deal with the public – or the press.

Alas, I couldn’t do much about Coulter and Yiannopoulos. SPJ’s arcane rules dictate I represent only Region 3 – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Well, Spencer is in my territory now. And this weekend is SPJ’s annual convention. So I’ve contacted Padgett’s attorney, and I’ve submitted the resolution below, which attendees at the convention will vote on.

I’ve also asked SPJ’s Florida chapter to set aside money from its Legal Defense Fund – and notify the University of Florida that Spencer has at least one ally who’s not an asshole.

RESOLUTION: Supporting free speech even when it’s offensive – because the alternative is so much worse

Submitted by: Region 3 director Michael Koretzky

WHEREAS one of SPJ’s six missions is, “The Society must maintain constant vigilance in protection of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press;”

WHEREAS in 2003, SPJ’s Quill magazine declared, “All free-speech cases affect journalism;”

WHEREAS in 1998, SPJ called a Constitutional amendment banning flag-burning “a threat to freedom of speech;”

WHEREAS in 2010, SPJ decried a California law restricting violent video games by saying, “the Court should not eliminate First Amendment protection for violent speech” because of “the negative implications of a violent speech exception for journalists;”

WHEREAS white supremacist Richard Spencer speaking at the University of Florida, a public institution, is no more or less egregious than the cases stated above;

WHEREAS SPJ knows that once free speech is restricted for one group, journalists aren’t far behind;

WHEREAS SPJ also knows when “safety concerns” are allowed to routinely squelch offensive speech, it’s not long before those same concerns will be used to prevent publication of information that offends those in power;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that SPJ urges the University of Florida and all public institutions of higher learning to uphold their Constitutional responsibilities and educational missions, no matter how unpleasant that might be – whether it’s hosting Richard Cross, Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos, or whatever asshole comes next.


The city of Muscatine, on the Mississippi River, has just over 20,000 residents.

Call it a full court press.

A dozen students in a small Iowa town have sued their whiny college for censoring the campus newspaper and firing their adviser.

But they’re not waiting around for a judge to rule – the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow, and these (mostly) women want to burn rubber.

So they’re starting their own newspaper.

And you can help.

Clockwise from top: Mary Mason, Alexis Huscko, Tarsa Weikert, Omar Ocampo

Meet these pleasant people.

Two words you rarely see together are polite journalist, but that describes the entire staff of The Calumet, the student-run newspaper at tiny Muscatine Community College. (Enrollment: under 2,000.)

They’ve never ambush-interviewed anyone, asked leading questions, been passive-aggressive, or stretched the truth to make their stories sexier.

No, they just wrote mostly nice and innocuous stories that still got them in serious trouble. Why? No one knows, but it’s both funny and sad.

Here’s an example from editor Mary Mason (top left)…

A building had 13-15 door handles that weren’t working, and students wondered why. So we wrote a story explaining the handles cost several hundred dollars each to fix, and that they had to be specially ordered. The administration felt the story was negative.

It gets stupider…

Rick Boyer is gonna hate this photo. So share it with your friends.

Meet a silly censor.

This is Rick Boyer, MCC’s chairman of the math and science department.

A few months ago, The Calumet listed all the faculty who had won grants – not what you’d call hard-hitting investigative reporting. But Boyer sure took it that way.

The harmless and even boring story (which you can read here) ran with smiling photos of the winners, which the school made readily available.

The next day, Boyer called the newsroom and, according to the students’ lawsuit…

asserted that The Calumet did not have the right to use his photograph and that The Calumet must obtain his consent in the future before using his photograph or a photograph of anyone else on campus. Boyer then hung up.

Perhaps Boyer has a body integrity disorder. Or maybe he’s a fugitive from justice. Either would explain why his LinkedIn and his Facebook profiles have no photos of his face. So I’m running Boyer’s photo here, with the hope he’ll call and yell at me, too. (Mr. Boyer: my Skype handle is michaelkoretzky.)

I don’t know why a math professor needs to approve all the photos in a student newspaper, but that’s not as weird as this…

Ladrina Wilson got promoted to dean for abusing rules to protect minorities. Maybe she'll become a college president if she accuses students of murder.

Meet a sinister censor.

This is LaDrina Wilson, who was MCC’s “equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer” last year.

I’m not exactly sure what her job was, but I do know she wasn’t very busy. How else to explain her investigation into The Calumet’s staff?

Wilson went after the students for a hard-hitting story about…who gets named “Student of the Month.”


The Calumet reported on one woman who was named Student of the Month twice in one year. Who chooses? The Student Government adviser – who just happens to be the woman’s uncle.

That adviser filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against The Calumet’s adviser, James Compton. How that story makes the adviser a discriminating boss is beyond me, but Wilson launched an investigation. MCC even hired a private investigator to interrogate Compton and the students.

“The student journalists felt pressured and intimidated,” the lawsuit says.

Wilson’s investigation eventually concluded the students did nothing wrong by reporting on who gets chosen Student of the Month. Imagine that.

Then Wilson got promoted. She’s now dean of students at another Iowa community college. Which infuriates this guy…

Frank LoMonte can't figure out why MCC hates its student newspaper so much, but it really bugs the crap out of him.

Meet an angry attorney.

This is Frank LoMonte. He runs the Student Press Law Center, which defends high schoolers and college students from hyper-sensitive principals and presidents.

He spent hours investigating MCC. His take…

You can say a lot of bad things about the people who run Muscatine Community College, but one thing you have to give them is: They keep their promises. They promised the editors of The Calumet that if they published a story about how an unhinged MCC administrator threatened the newspaper – for publishing his head-shot photo without his express consent – that the newspaper’s adviser would lose his job. And sure enough, they were good to their word.

LoMonte concludes, “You really can’t get a more open-and-shut First Amendment violation than this one, and yet MCC has decided to waste the taxpayers’ money hiring lawyers to try to defend the indefensible.”

He’s most irate about a nice-guy newspaper adviser losing his job because he stuck up for this students…

James Compton

Meet the assailed adviser.

This is James Compton. He’s an English professor who advised The Calumet until he was fired – by email from a dean.

“I still have my job there teaching English,” Compton says. He admits to feeling “guilty relief” at no longer working with the student newspaper: “Being questioned by a private eye was never one of my professional goals.”

He’s being replaced with a part-time adjunct professor “who will have no workplace protection,” Compton says. “This breaks a run of full-time teachers as adviser that began when The Calumet started up in 1951.”

Compton is a quiet, laid-back guy who says, “I have no specifics as to what I’ve been guilty of.” His best guess? “I believe anything the students researched and reported – if it wasn’t outright positive – was viewed as an attack on administration and those close to them.”

Still, he saw the students get results. Remember those broken door handles? “They watched maintenance attempt to fix multiple broken door handles in a building the same day another reporter had interviewed the head of maintenance.”

Then there was the urinal…

“Tarsa Weikert saw the head of maintenance replace a broken urinal within hours of her interviewing him. The urinal had been broken for nine months.”

And more importantly, this…

“When there was a report on a parking lot feeling unsafe at night due to darkness, they saw the electric truck appear the day after publication to install new lights.”

Yup, sounds like a rowdy gang of anarchists to me. Now they’re doing this…

The Spotlight is going to be a very nice newspaper published by some very nice students.

Meet The Spotlight.

While the students wait for their lawsuit to mosey its way through the legal system, they’ve launched their own print newspaper, called The Spotlight.

It debuts next week. Printing the paper will cost around $500, so SPJ Florida and SPJ Region 3 have offered to match any donation up to that amount. That gives The Spotlight enough cash to cover their first two issues, and enough time to sell ads to pay for the issues after that.

Will you donate a dollar or five? Click here or on any photo…

Unless they’re shy, all donors will be listed on The Spotlight’s website and printed in the dead-tree edition.

Says editor Mary Mason: “Our goal is to get people talking, to start a dialogue.” They already have…

The Spotlight is going to be a very nice newspaper published by some very nice students.

Meet the future.

You might be asking yourself, “Why should I give a crap about – and my money to – a dozen courteous reporters in Iowa?”

Frank LoMonte sums it up best…

What we’re seeing at MCC is perhaps the most unsubtle and heavy-handed example of the escalating war on journalism at campuses across America. The message to colleges must be that when you attack a newsroom, you’re kicking a hornet’s nest – you’re not going to be able to control what comes out, and it’s going to sting real bad.

Help us create a buzz, both in and out of Iowa.

Beating the system?

What’s the opposite of a restraining order? And can I get one against Tom Owens?

Owens is the county commission candidate in rural Georgia who got a restraining order against a freelance journalist. That was two weeks ago. Last week, justice prevailed and the restraining order was lifted.

There are certainly bigger crimes against journalism than the one Owens perpetrated against a writer named George Chidi. But few are as curious and even fewer are as devious.

I had one lengthy phone call with Owens on Oct. 9, during which he professed more than once, “I love the media! And the media loves me!” He said I could contact him anytime, and if he wasn’t campaigning or dead, he’d call me back right away.

Since then, he’s lost not one but two court hearings in as many days. After repeated calls and emails, he finally got back to me once over the weekend. Despite more emails and voice mails, he never replied.

What a shame. I really wanted to talk to him because I’ve learned he’s a crazy genius who stumbled upon the perfect crime.

Owens told me he “feared for his life” because George Chidi “acted like he had mad cow disease” whenever they met. 

So Owens sought what’s officially called a temporary protection order. A judge granted it – as well she should have, Chidi admits.

“She did what she was supposed to do, and that’s the problem,” Chidi says. “All the biases in the law are toward granting a TPO, as it should be. Because if you don’t, you end up with women getting beaten and killed.”

No one anticipated a candidate would seek a restraining order to get a reporter off his back. Owens did, and because a judge is supposed to err on the side of the accuser, he had a week free of Chidi’s searing questions about his past.

“Problem is, there’s no punishment on the back end for people misusing the law, especially when the purpose is violating the First Amendment,” Chidi says. “And there’s no mechanism in the law to prevent this from happening again.”

In 90 minutes, everything Owens accomplished for a week was undone.

First came a magistrate’s hearing on Tuesday. Owens and his team defended their restraining order by seeking a stalking charge against Chidi. Their evidence was this anti-climactic video, which Owens told me all about but refused to show me because he wanted the magistrate to see it first…

“The magistrate saw the video, and then his demeanor changed fundamentally,” Chidi says. “The magistrate said, ‘What is this? Did you really think this supports a stalking charge?” And [Owens] kept saying, ‘He made me feel afraid, he’s devious.’ The hearing was over in 30 minutes.”

The next day, a judge wanted to know why the restraining order should stay in place since the stalking charge was denied. An hour later, it was unofficially lifted.

“I’m totally off the hook,” Chidi says, “but we’re still waiting on the formal ruling – which I’m sure will be Get the fuck out of here in Latin.”

So did Owens get away with one? Chidi thinks more than just journalists are irked about his abuse of the legal system.

“I don’t think he’s fully understood the damage he’s done to himself,” Chidi says. “He may not have the competence necessary to understand how incompetent he is.”

SPJ Georgia president Sharon Dunten was at the second hearing and was equally stunned.

“It was one of the most bizarre hearings I have ever witnessed,” she told me. “Owens didn’t have counsel. He attempted to represent himself. The judge basically had to do everything for him, including questioning his witnesses. I think she wanted to make sure everything was neat and tidy so the possibility of an appeal would be out of the question.”

Dunten added: “When I arrived outside the courtroom, an odd man was speaking to someone about how George was gay, the N word, and a Muslim lover. He later was one of Owens’ witnesses.”

That afternoon, Dunten’s board of directors heard her report and issued this statement…

SPJ Georgia is pleased that Georgia journalist George Chidi is free to work as a journalist again. Minutes after leaving the courtroom, Chidi settled into a corner booth of a local Decatur pub and opened up his laptop to start writing professionally again.

Thanks goes to the legal team of attorney Tom Clyde, board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, and Executive Director Hollie Manheimer for fighting the final step of releasing this outrageous restraining order against Chidi. Clyde is an attorney for Kilpatrick Stockton LLC of Georgia.

Thank you also goes to SPJ national for their prompt response for a journalist who was clearly facing a violation of the First Amendment.

So what happens now? Chidi is finishing his book on civic engagement in Georgia, which is why he was pursuing interviews with Owens in the first place.

“I think this will be its own chapter,” Chidi says.

What Owens knows

Tom Owens and I agreed on one thing he told me last night. After that, not much else.

“I’m not against a free press,” he said during our 15-minute call. “But a free press should be respectful of people, not screaming and hollering.”

“Certainly,” I replied. “And if you got evidence that George Chidi screamed at you, I’ll change my strong opinion on this issue.”

The issue is a restraining order Owens convinced a judge to sign on Monday. It bans Chidi, a freelance journalist, from communicating with Owens or getting within 100 yards of him. Yesterday, I offered to lead a restraining order extravaganza.

A few hours after that post, Owens and I spoke. I asked him for details on what Chidi did. The candidate for DeKalb County commission said the two men were at a candidates’ forum when “George acted like he had mad cow disease and was screaming and making everyone uncomfortable.”

Of course, Chidi denies he did anything more than his job.

He notes that Owens released a video from a subsequent encounter at another candidates forum – which purports to show Chidi being threatening but really just shows a reporter being slightly annoying because the candidate keeps ducking his questions.

I was genuinely appreciative of Owens for speaking with me when he obviously knew I didn’t agree with him. I asked if he had more damning evidence than just his word and the words of his campaign pals.

“We have a lot more video that was taken,” he said. The video is from that first forum and shows Chidi’s “obnoxious behavior.”

“Can I see it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to put it out in the public domain yet till we get to court,” Owens said. “We gonna have us a probable cause hearing.”

Owens also says Chidi threatened him another time, but “there are no witnesses to it, when he got up in my face and quietly said, ‘I’m gonna kill you.'”

Owens says he “fears for his life” but is also angry: “When you approach me and tell me you’re gonna destroy me, I don’t have to take that, sir.”

Owens says the big hearing in front of a judge is 9 a.m. Tuesday. That’s when he shows the video. If it proves him right, I’ll be the first to report it – I hate when any profession circles the wagons and doesn’t admit when one of its own behaves badly.

But if this as-yet-unseen video shows nothing more revealing than the public video does, Owens needs to drop his restraining order or have a judge do it for him. If it stands, so will Georgia’s journalism community.

SPJ’s Georgia chapter will cover the hearing.

SPJ Georgia president Sharon Dunten issued this statement from her board…

It has been a turbulent couple of months for journalists in the Atlanta metro area as a Dekalb County Commissioner, Elaine Boyer, admitted to stealing more than $90,000 from taxpayers during the past two years. As new candidates announce their intention to replace Boyer’s position on the county commission, Atlanta and Georgia journalists are closely vetting the new candidates, including Georgia journalist George Chidi.

SPJ Georgia supports Chidi for vetting Tom Owens, who is running for the empty commissioner position. As part of the vetting process, Chidi approached and asked Owens questions at two public forums, sent emails and left messages on voicemails.

In return, Owens found a judge to grant a temporary stalking protection order against Chidi, who was just doing his job. In addition, days later when Chidi did publish a blog about Owens online, he was served a notice of civil contempt for violating the TPO.

Since when does a county temporary protection order require a journalist not to publish an article online or in print?

SPJ Georgia will be closely following any developments until this controversy is resolved.


This Vietnam veteran is afraid. Of a reporter. Next week, we’re really gonna scare the crap out of him.

Tom Owens is running for an empty commission seat in DeKalb County, which is next door to Atlanta. On Monday, Owens filed a restraining order against a freelance reporter who kept asking him annoying questions.

Such as…

• Did you really threaten to kill the imam of a mosque that opened behind your house? Did you really offer to leave him alone if he bought your house, appraised at $100,000, for a cool half-million?

• What’s your take on a police report that says a city councilman in the small town of Doraville accused you of “showing up on his doorstep to berate him for offering condolences to the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting”?

• After you pled no contest to stalking in nearby Forsyth County, you were ordered into mental health counseling and assigned 30 days of community service. Did you complete both?

Somehow, Owens found a judge crazier than he is to issue the restraining order.

Pity George Chidi. He’s a reporter with a restraining order.

Chidi freelances for various publications and is writing a big book on civic engagement in Georgia. Owens had successfully ducked Chidi until last Sunday, when Chidi showed up at a public candidate forum where Owens was speaking.

Owens had a friend record this “evidence” of Chidi’s intimidating behavior…

…but on his YouTube page, Owens claims this is tame in comparison to their first encounter, which happened in a church: “He was unidentified and stated he wanted to ‘destroy’ me in his introductory statement.”

Sadly, there’s no evidence of that, and Chidi denies it.

“I never said it,” Chidi told me this afternoon. “I looked him in the eye and said, ‘You’re not going to like this story,’ but that’s as far as it ever got.”

Chidi says the same guy who shot the video above also recorded him at that first encounter. “But he hasn’t released that,” Chidi says, adding with just a hint of sarcasm, “I wonder why.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, Owens filed his restraining order the same day Chidi posted an unflattering column about the candidate. Yesterday, Chidi says, “the sheriff’s office dropped off a notice of civil contempt” because he had violated the restraining order by “contacting third parties via social media.” Whatever the hell that means.

Chidi had to get a lawyer so he won’t end up in jail. He has a hearing on Oct. 22. Chidi’s laywer is from the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and is representing him for free. But Chidi is losing time and money dealing with this, so he’s crowdsourcing on his own.

I emailed Owens earlier today, but he hasn’t replied yet. Maybe he’s afraid of me. Maybe he’s asking for yet another restraining order. You want one, too?

We’re looking for journalists who can’t show restraint.

To highlight the ridiculousness of a candidate for public office successfully getting a restraining order against a reporter with zero evidence of threatening behavior, I’m looking for a few Georgians who’d love a restraining order from Tom Owens.

All you gotta do is approach Owens at any of his next several campaign events and pose the three questions above.

I’ll provide you the intel on those appearances, and I’ll pay for any legal expenses you may incur. If you indeed get slapped with a restraining order, I’ll even pay for you to get it framed for your home or office.

If several journalists pepper Owens with the same questions Chidi did, and if he doesn’t file restraining orders against all of them, it’s sure to convince a judge − even one in DeKalb County − that Owens fears not for his personal safety, but his political future.

Email me

Schick hits the fan

Sam Olens

If only they were all this quick and easy.

Yesterday, I wrote about Sam Olens, Georgia’s attorney general, who was picking on a University of Georgia journalism student named David Schick.

I described how Olens was demanding Schick erase four pages of very public records from his personal blog. Last week, Olens filed a motion with a judge to force the 28-year-old to comply.

Yesterday, Olens withdrew that motion.

Why? Who knows.

I’d like to think it had something to do with SPJers posting those same public records on their own blogs in protest. Not ony did I do that, but so did SPJ President Dave Cuillier.

At least one attorney is convinced SPJ had something to do with it.

“Whenever there’s a blogger whose rights are being threatened, SPJ is the first to ride to the rescue,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “There’s no question this needless intimidation tactic would have dragged on for many more weeks without SPJ’s timely intervention. The attorney general’s office thought they could push around one little student blogger, but they didn’t realize they were taking on an entire profession.”

As for Schick, he’s happy yet confused: “I’m very glad the Attorney General’s office withdrew their motion, but I still don’t know the reason why.”

He concludes…

It’d be great if the AG’s office withdrew the motion because they realized it was legally unsupportable in the first place. But if they just withdrew it because they now realize — in the age of the Internet — it would be impossible to track down everyone who might already have republished this material, that’s less encouraging.

I disgaree with Schick. I doubt Sam Olens jumped out of bed yesterday morning and blurted, “My God, what have I done?!” before rushing to work and withdrawing his motion. He’s an elected official who saw some bad publicity barreling towards him, so he smartly got out of the way. I find that very encouraging.

Schick vs. hick

Sam OlensWant to enrage this guy in Georgia? Copy 21 pages of public records to your own website.

Somewhere in those pages are four that so offend Georgia’s Attorney General, he’s demanding a college journalist erase them from his personal blog. Last week, he asked a judge to force the kid to do it.

So what does Attorney General Sam Olens fear the public will learn? NSA snooping secrets? Benghazi scandal evidence? The recipe for Coca-Cola? (Coke is based in downtown Atlanta.)

“The four pages of documents,” says the motion Olens’ office filed last Wednesday, “contain the names of a number of individuals who applied for the position of president at one of the Board of Regents’ colleges or universities. None of these individuals was selected as a finalist for the position for which they applied.”

That’s right, Olens doesn’t want you to know the names of people who applied for a job and didn’t get it.

Perhaps Olens wants to spare those fine folks the embarrassment of everyone knowing they were passed over. Then again, they were outed only on an obscure blog written by a University of Georgia journalism student named David Schick.

So how did Schick get those names? Simple. He asked for them.

Olens’ motion contends Georgia officials “improperly” released those names, buried in 700 pages of public records Schick had been requesting for nearly a year.

Frank LoMonte

Want to enrage this attorney in Washington, DC? Whisper “Sam Olens” in his ear.

“It’s outrageous that Attorney General Sam Olens apparently doesn’t understand basic principles of First Amendment law that have been set in concrete for decades,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

“The Supreme Court has said again and again and again that journalists have an absolute right to publish information they obtain without breaking the law, and no court can order them to stop the presses – much less the more drastic step of ‘unpublishing’ something distributed months earlier.”

What angers LoMonte is the triviality of it all.

“States have been conducting college presidential searches in the open for many, many years,” he says. “The idea that there’s some privacy right in being a candidate for college president that overrides the First Amendment is frankly nutty.”

LoMonte concludes, “Courts can’t stop a journalist even from publishing leaked classified documents or the names of rape victims, and the evaluation of candidates for college president looks like pretty small beans next to those. I’m certain that the judge will laugh this motion right out of his courtroom.”

Davd Schick

Want to assist David Schick? Annoy Sam Olens.

Click the image below to view 21 pages of public records from Schick’s original 700-page request (more on that in a minute). Then post them on your own website and tell Olens about it. I just did…

Mr. Olens: I heard about your office’s motion to compel a college journalist to remove four pages of public records from his website. Since the motion didn’t specify exactly which pages those were, and since David Schick and his attorney won’t tell me – it’s “pending litigation,” after all – I’ve discovered 21 pages that qualify. Since I’m reasonably sure the four pages that offend you are among them, I’m posting the 21-page PDF to my blog and asking others to do the same with their blogs. 

The reasoning here is simple.

If many others post the PDF, the judge will likely conclude it makes no sense to grant Olens’ motion. Because as often happens in these cases, Olens’ heavy-handed tactics have made those public records even more public.

So what did Schick want with 700 pages of records? I wrote about Schick last year, when he was investigating a $16 million budget shortfall at Georgia Perimeter College – where he went to school, and where his newspaper adviser was laid off due to budget cuts.

Obviously, administrators weren’t keen on Schick’s digging, and they stymied him at every turn. As I wrote last April…

First, the school charged him $2,963 to forward him emails. When he got a volunteer lawyer who threatened to sue, the price tag was knocked down to $291. But then administrators printed out each email and then re-scanned them – which meant Schick couldn’t search them for keywords.  

Undaunted, Schick secured a pro bono attorney in Atlanta-based Daniel Levitas and sued the Georgia Board of Regents for “failing to produce public records.” After a 2 1/2-day trial in April, Schick and Levitas are awaiting the judge’s verdict.

How long will that take?

“I have no way of knowing,” Levitas says. “There may be a decision very soon or there may not be a decision for many months. Following the trial, we’ve received no instruction from the judge.”

That might seem like the wheels of justice grinding exceedingly slow, but Levitas says it was a speedy trial that the judge “rocket-docketed.”

He also doesn’t know when the judge will rule on Olens’ motion. But Schick, who now attends the University of Georgia and is president of the school’s SPJ/ONA chapter, is more patient than most journalists. In fact, he says this experience has emboldened him to become an attorney himself.

He already speaks like one. I asked him what he could say, given that we have no idea when the “pending” will end on the case and the motion. He replied via email with this lawyerly statement…

This is a rather extraordinary motion and raises profound First Amendment concerns of prior restraint and government censorship. Time and time again, the right of journalists to publish controversial and even classified government documents has been supported by the courts. The ability to publish controversial information — even information that allegedly jeopardizes the supposed “privacy rights” of individuals — is a cornerstone of press freedom in our democracy.

He concluded like this: “I look forward to responding further in the proper forum — in court by and through my attorney.”

When Schick passes the bar, I got to keep him on speed dial. Because I might want to hire him to represent me someday.

Make Olens mad

Not your average Joe

This is going to sound ridiculous at first.

An SPJ chapter in Florida is raising money for a troubled reporter in Chicago – even though he hasn’t asked for the help, and even though a judge might not allow it.

Then again, that’s not nearly as ridiculous as what got us to this point.

On Friday, a county judge in Illinois declared Joe Hosey in contempt – because the 10-year veteran reporter won’t reveal his sources in a double homicide dubbed the Hickory Street Murders.

Thing is, Hosey hasn’t published any information the cops and court don’t already know. In fact, all he’s reported are some grisly details from police reports that weren’t made public. Nothing Hosey has written hurts the case at all.

And that’s not my opinion. Last week, the Crystal Lake-Cary Patch reported…

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Marie Czech said during the hearing that the grand jury proceedings in the Hickory Street murder cases were not compromised by Hosey’s articles, nor was evidence compromised.

Even so, a judge ruled Hosey in “minor direct criminal contempt” – and socked him with a major fine of $1,000 and $300 per day. The judge also threatened him with jail.

That pisses off Jason Parsley.

Parsley is president of SPJ Florida. Over the weekend, he and his chapter’s officers decided to pay for one day of Hosey’s fines. And they challenged the rest of SPJ – and every other journalism organization in the country – to do the same.

Here’s what the challenge looks like.

“It’s appalling that this reporter could face more than $50,000 in fines and jail time for not revealing a source,” Parsley says. “This ruling by the judge is ironic since Illinois has a shield law that’s supposed to protect reporters from this exact situation.”

The chapter’s challenge comes after SPJ National wrote a press release last Monday and another on Friday. Chapter vice president Brandon Ballenger says journalism groups needs to stand up and not just speak out.

“The most sordid part of this case – which according to police reports involved people having sex on dead bodies – is that an intellectually bankrupt judge thinks a reporter should be fined hundreds of dollars a day for doing his constitutionally protected job,” Ballenger says. “While it’s a bit sad that justice costs $300 a day, we’ll do our part to see it done and hope other organizations will as well.”

But SPJ Florida hasn’t spoken to Hosey. Neither has anyone in SPJ National. And in other cases like this, judges have banned those charged with contempt from spending donated money.

Doesn’t matter to Parsley and Ballenger.

Because if Hosey turns down the money, it’s there for the next harassed reporter – and there will be a next one.

“Our $300 is a drop in the bucket compared to what he faces,” Parsley says. “So I can only hope that this small gesture of support will encourage others groups, including our parent organization, to step in as well.”

So Joe, email me and I’ll introduce you to SPJ Florida. Even if you don’t want the cash, might as well meet some supporters who are willing to put their money where their mouths are.


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