Judge dismisses all journalist, BOE cases

Published 11:48 am Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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The Alabama Attorney General filed motions to dismiss the cases against two local journalists, a board of education member and a school board employee who are accused of allegedly revealing grand jury evidence. The motions were filed April 19.
According to court records, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Govan filed motions to nol pros and dismiss the cases against Atmore News Publisher and Co-Owner Sherry A. Digmon, News Reporter Don Fletcher, District 4 Board Member Cindy Jackson and Escambia County Schools System Payroll Clerk Veronica Fore.
According to news archives, Digmon and Fletcher were arrested Oct. 27, 2023 for allegedly revealing grand jury evidence in the Atmore News’ Oct. 25, 2023 edition.
Fore was also arrested on Oct. 27, according to news archives.
In an Oct. 25 news report by The Atmore Advance, subpoena and COVID checks were mentioned and names were noted.
Jackson was arrested on Dec. 4, 2023 for allegedly revealing grand jury information.
The motions by the attorney general’s office came more than a week after Retired 19th Circuit Judge Ben Fuller set a new hearing date to address motions to dismiss in the case of the area journalists and county board of education members.
Additionally, Digmon, who was also arrested and indicted on alleged ethics violations for using her office for personal gain as the District 6 board member, and was served an impeachment indictment from her capacity as a member of the BOE, had her ethics case dismissed as well.
Of the cases that were dismissed, Digmon, Fletcher and Fore’s revealing grand jury evidence cases were dismissed with prejudice.
Alabama Press Association General Counsel Dennis Bailey said Monday prosecutors nol pros cases for a variety of reasons, including that they don’t believe the prosecution would be just, they don’t think they have the evidence to prove the case or they lost a vital witness.
When asked if the four could be charged again, Bailey said it depends, adding the cases that were dismissed with prejudice can’t be brought up again.
“They have been completely dismissed with prejudice,” Bailey said. “If a judge
doesn’t dismiss it with prejudice, they could bring up the case again.”
When asked for comment, Fletcher said in an email the dismissals represent a victory for the First Amendment and the guarantee of a free press.
“I thank God it turned out this way,” Fletcher said. “I’m relieved it’s over, but still a little angry that it ever happened. I believe the (district attorney’s Steve Billy) attempted prosecution of Ms. Digmon and me, which flies in the face of the U.S. Constitution, was based on personal reasons, and it just got away from him.
“It only took the AG’s office a few days of looking over the case file to see there was no basis for my arrest or Sherry’s arrest, and no hope for a successful prosecution of a case that never had any legs to stand on,” he added.
Digmon had no comment on the dismissals.
As of press time, the attorney general’s office didn’t respond for comment on the dismissals.

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