During an appearance on ‘Fox & Friends Weekend’, Jeff Jones, a real estate agent from Alabama, shared his insights on the increasing number of retirees relocating to Alabama due to the high demand and skyrocketing prices in Florida’s housing market.
Last week, authorities arrested the publisher and a reporter of an Alabama newspaper, alleging that they published an article that disclosed information regarding a grand jury investigation concerning the local school system. This move has caused concern among supporters of press freedom. However, there is limited information available about the incident, and the publisher has been arrested for the second time since.
Last week, Sherry Digmon, the owner of Atmore News and a member of the local school board, along with reporter Donald Fletcher, were arrested on charges of revealing grand-jury proceedings. This act is considered a felony in Alabama and was brought forth by the Escambia County district attorney.
In a recent article by Atmore News, it was claimed that the Escambia County Board of Education had received a subpoena requesting information about bonuses paid from pandemic relief funds. As per a subsequent report, the phones of school board members, including Digmon, were seized by authorities. This occurred after Digmon voted against renewing the school superintendent’s contract. However, it remains unclear what specific details about the grand jury the paper is accused of disclosing.
A publisher and a reporter of a small-town newspaper in Alabama were arrested for reporting confidential grand jury information.
Donald Fletcher, a reporter for Atmore News, was pictured alongside the publisher, Sherry Digmon, in a photograph released by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
According to reports, the school system’s financial officer and bookkeeper have received a subpoena to disclose information about bonuses given to employees during the COVID pandemic. The Atmore News also mentioned an unidentifiable source who alleged that District Attorney Steve Billy aimed to demonstrate that school board members had violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.
On Wednesday, Digmon faced another arrest due to her violation of state ethics law. This is the second time in less than a week that she was taken into custody. The accusations against her state that she used her position in the school board to benefit herself and engaged in improper solicitation by selling $2,500 worth of advertisements to the school system.
The Committee to Protect Journalists had urged the authorities in Escambia County, Alabama, to drop all charges against Digmon and Fletcher, related to leaking information, before their second arrest.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is expressing deep concern over the recent arrest of Sherry Digmon, the publisher of Atmore News, and Don Fletcher, one of its reporters. CPJ is calling on the local authorities to drop all charges against them as they were just doing their jobs by reporting on a matter of local interest, specifically the allocation of school board funds. Katherine Jacobsen, the program coordinator at CPJ, expressed outrage over the arrests and emphasized that journalists should not be prosecuted for simply doing their job of providing news to the public.
Jacobsen emphasized the significant role played by journalists in their respective local communities. He further added that arresting them would create a chilling effect, which would be a gross misuse of taxpayer funds.
The CPJ announced that it is currently conducting an investigation to determine whether the recent arrest of Sherry Digmon is linked to her duties as a school board member or her role at the Atmore News. Despite this development, the CPJ continues to defend its initial stance.
According to a spokesperson from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the organization still maintains its concerns regarding the arrests of Digmon and Don Fletcher, a reporter for Atmore News, on October 27. The spokesperson emphasized that it is not a crime for journalists to publish leaked material and that they should not face arrests or charges for reporting on matters of public interest, as it falls within their duties to do so.
HOW MOVING TO ALABAMA HELPED ME ACHIEVE THE ‘AMERICAN DREAM’
As a born and bred New Yorker, I always thought that the key to achieving the ‘American Dream’ was to stay in the city that never sleeps. However, after years of struggling to make ends meet and feeling like I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of paying bills and working just to survive, I realized that maybe there was a different path to success.
That’s when I made the decision to move to Alabama. It wasn’t an easy choice – leaving behind my family, friends, and the only home I had ever known was a daunting thought. But I knew I needed a change, and I was willing to take the risk.
What I found in Alabama was a community that welcomed me with open arms. I was surprised to discover that the cost of living was significantly lower than in New York, and I was able to afford a much nicer apartment than I ever could have dreamed of in the city. I was also able to secure a job that paid me a higher salary than I had ever earned before.
But it wasn’t just the financial benefits that made the move worth it. I found a sense of belonging in Alabama that I had never experienced before. The people were friendly and genuine, and I felt like I was part of a community that truly cared about each other.
Moving to Alabama may not have been part of my original plan, but it ended up being the best decision I ever made. It allowed me to achieve the ‘American Dream’ on my own terms, and I will always be grateful for the experience.
Last week, authorities arrested the publisher and a reporter of a small town Alabama newspaper. The accusation against them was that they published an article that revealed information about a grand jury probe related to the local school system.
On Thursday, The Atmore News ran a story under the headline “No secrets,” which detailed the circumstances surrounding the initial arrests.
According to the news staff, Sherry Digmon, the publisher, and co-owner of Atmore News, along with Don Fletcher, a reporter, were arrested last Friday. They were charged with revealing grand jury secrets along with a bookkeeper for the county school system. As a result, on Monday, they were ordered to abstain from publishing any stories related to criminal and civil matters that may appear before a grand jury. This injunction specifically pertains to the Escambia County Board of Education.
During their initial appearance before District Judge Eric Coale on October 30, both Digmon and Fletcher signed statements acknowledging that they would have to adhere to a specific condition of their bonds. This condition restricted them from communicating about any ongoing criminal investigations, including schools and others. The judge verbally added that this restriction would remain in effect until such information becomes public record. According to the Alabama Criminal Code Section 12-16-216, the journalists were arrested since they violated certain provisions. This particular section prohibits grand jurors, witnesses, and others from revealing or disclosing any information regarding the form, nature, or physical evidence of questions asked. Additionally, no person is allowed to obtain information related to physical evidence or questions asked, directly or indirectly, by any means. However, there is an exception regarding state prosecutions.
According to the report, Digmon, who opposed the new contract for Superintendent of Education Michele McClung along with three other school board members, and Fletcher were both released at 8:34 p.m. once $10,000 surety bonds were posted for each of them.
Sherry Digmon, the publisher and co-owner of Atmore News, found herself in legal trouble as she was arrested on two separate charges. One of the charges was for violating state ethics law, and the other arrest took place on Friday, October 27, 2023, in Escambia County, Alabama. The Escambia County Sheriffs Office was responsible for both arrests.
On Friday, October 27, 2023, Don Fletcher, a reporter for Atmore News, was taken into custody in Escambia County, Alabama, as reported by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Associated Press, Dennis Bailey, the general counsel for the Alabama Press Association, stated on Wednesday that the First Amendment grants “the news media the right to publish factual information on issues of public interest, even if obtained through unlawful means, as long as the publisher was not involved in the illegal activity.” This means that the media is allowed to report on such information, even if it was obtained illegally, as long as they were not directly involved in the unlawful conduct.
According to Bailey, who has extensive knowledge of the legal system, as far as he knows, journalists who receive and publish unsolicited tips regarding the issuance and delivery of a grand jury subpoena are not breaking Alabama grand jury secrecy laws, unless they obtain the information through coercion. He further stated in an email to the AP that he has never come across a case where a reporter was arrested for publishing accurate details about the existence of a grand jury subpoena.
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