Tomorrow, a story will run that identifies the Jones County Schools teacher accused of forcing a student into giving him a blow job.
And here I am, questioning my news judgment.
Okay, kiddos … here’s what I weighed:
– the deciding factor in all this was that, as it normally does, TV news would play “clean-up” crew on my story. That is, if I were to write a story based on the court document I obtained today that told the world what allegedly took place on Nov. 25, 2008, you’d best believe WITN would be calling the courthouse to get the same document. Then WITN would reveal his name. Within one week, people would forget where they heard the guy’s name and automatically assume I had something to do with it – even if it was never printed in a story of mine until he was arrested – so there’s really no point in me being “noble” and keeping it hidden.
– this man was suspended as a result of this investigation – there must be some truth to it, and even if it’s just a little, I, as the father of a girl, say he deserves all the public scorn he gets.
– the area where this happened is notorious for covering crap up. It’s the exact reason, I believe, the sheriff’s office tried to keep the investigation from the district attorney’s office when it surfaced in December 2008. It’s no wonder this is far from the first time an allegation such as this has surfaced – educators think they can get away with it, so they go ahead and do it. But now this guy’s dirty laundry will be all over – I bet future child predators will think twice.
Another thing I factored into this decision was the way residents handled it. It was hush-hush around Jones County, as if they all worked for the president. The clerk of superior court even attempted to violate my First Amendment right when I drove to the courthouse to retrieve the search warrants – it took me 30 minutes of finagling with him and ultimately a call from the DA that made him fork over a public document.
The best way to piss off a news man is to disrespect the First Amendment. Who did this guy think he was?
For more on that, let’s go to me with an eyewitness report: Well, me, the clerk tried to say the SBI needed to make some corrections to the search warrant and it could not be released until they did so. Basically, that was a bunch of bullshit because the warrants had already been executed – these were the documents investigators used to obtain evidence, which is what makes them public record. Why on Earth would anything need changed before the public saw them?
So I called his bluff and informed him I was well aware of the law in this case and unless a judge ordered those warrants be sealed, I have every right to see them and share them with others. On top of that, the DA told him to give me them.
Still, what the Hell am I supposed to do in this case? Yeah, the court would face legal repercussions for these actions down the road and would be subject to public scorn for shielding info, but that does no good right then and there. It was approaching 5 p.m. – I needed them now.
He gave me some rigmarole about the DA calling him back at around 5:15 p.m. I told him I’d wait to hear what the DA advised. Fine, he told me, but the DA had already told him to wait on releasing them.
At about 5:10, he again tried to make me leave, saying, “You can get them in the morning – I’ll have the clerk call you when they’re ready.” Again, I insisted I’d wait for the DA’s call. Wait until morning so you have time to get a good-old-boy judge to seal them on good-old-boy grounds? Pah – try again.
His phone rang shortly thereafter. It was the DA. The clerk’s tone with the DA verified my suspicions: he was lobbying to keep these warrants from me.
Three minutes later, the clerk emerged from his office, which he had retreated to so no one could hear his conversation, and said, “Well, the DA said to go ahead and release them.”
Damn right he did.
It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that this is a case of the haves pillaging the have-nots. The somebodys trying hard not to let the nobodys bring them to justice.
Did I mention that went into my decision to print his name?
Now, here’s the thing. Say he’s cleared of these allegations. What do I do then? Simple. I work just as hard to make that known as I’m doing now to make sure justice is taken care of. Will there be hurt feelings regardless? Absolutely.
But one thing is certain: teachers in Jones County will think twice before engaging in sexual activity with a student.
I’ll take whatever flack I get for promoting that.