Publisher, reporter ordered to shy away from BOE, grand jury stories
By News Staff
Atmore News publisher and co-owner Sherry Digmon and Atmore News reporter Don Fletcher, both arrested last Friday — along with a bookkeeper for the county school system — for revealing grand jury secrets, were ordered Monday to refrain from publishing future stories about criminal and civil matters that might come before a grand jury, specifically those regarding the Escambia County Board of Education.
In an initial appearance held Monday, October 30, before District Judge Eric Coale, Digmon and Fletcher signed statements acknowledging that, as a condition of their bonds, both would in the future have “no communications about ongoing criminal investigations including schools and other.” Coale verbally added, “until they are public record.”
The journalists were arrested under the provisions of Alabama Criminal Code Section 12-16-216: “Grand juror, witness, etc., prohibited from revealing, disclosing, etc., form, nature, etc., of physical evidence or questions asked; no person to directly, indirectly, etc., by any means, obtain information as to physical evidence or questions asked; exception as to state prosecutions.”
The charges stem from articles published in the paper’s October 25 edition.
Fletcher was taken into custody at the newspaper’s South Main Street offices around 2:30 p.m. and spent six hours in custody. Digmon was arrested shortly thereafter at Atmore Community Hospital, where she was helping care for a friend, and was held for nearly five hours.
Veronica “Ashley” Fore, the county school system’s payroll and insurance bookkeeper, was jailed the same day on the same charge as Digmon and Fletcher. The reasons she was charged and arrested are not known.
Digmon, who was one of four school board members to vote against a new contract for Superintendent of Education Michele McClung, and Fletcher were released at 8:34 p.m. after surety bonds of $10,000 were posted for each.
Fore, who was booked into the facility at 3:57 p.m., was released at 4:26 p.m. under the same bond amount, but was reportedly allowed to post a property or signature bond.