Charges against journalist dismissed

ATLANTA—July 18, 2016—The Georgia First Amendment Foundation applauds the end of a Fannin County journalist’s weeks-long legal battle following his arrest after filing open records requests.

On Monday, at a hearing in Pickens County, charges finally were dropped against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, who was arrested June 24. Since then he has been subjected to court-ordered routine drug testing and was banned from many of the public buildings where he covered local government meetings and proceedings. Those restrictions remained in place even after the district attorney who had brought the charges against Thomason filed a July 7 motion asking that the charges be dismissed.

Retired Judge Richard Winegarden of Gwinnett County presided over the afternoon hearing and dismissed all charges against Thomason.

“While it is a victory that these charges were ultimately dropped, they never should have happened,” said GFAF Executive Director Hollie Manheimer. “This case was an attempt to undermine Georgia’s Open Records Act. Its outcome demonstrates it is absolutely inappropriate to use criminal charges to retaliate against a journalist or individual simply for asking for information.”