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Judge dismisses Digmon ethics charge

Atmore News Staff

Finally. After eight days of waiting on Sherry Digmon’s part, Judge Ben Fuller corrected a cloudy legal situation last weekend by formally issuing an Order of Dismissal, with prejudice, as regards the ethics charge against the Atmore News publisher and co-owner.
The dismissal with prejudice, which means the charges cannot be brought back into a courtroom, was granted by Fuller last Saturday evening, April 27. It removes some of the stain left by District Attorney Steve Billy’s three-pronged legal attack on Digmon.
The DA had the newspaper publisher arrested on criminal indictments for the alleged ethics violation and for revealing grand jury secrets.
He also generated, with the county grand jury, a “Report and Information of Impeachment and Prayer of Removal from Office” against the District 6 Escambia County Board of Education member in an effort to have her removed from the school board. That action was ceased at Billy’s request in February.
Shortly after Assistant Alabama Attorney General Thomas Govan Jr. — assigned to head up the state’s prosecution of Digmon, Atmore News reporter Don Fletcher, BOE Vice President Cindy Jackson (District 4) and school system bookkeeper Ashley Fore, each charged with revealing grand jury secrets — examined the case file, he drafted and filed motions to dismiss all the charges against all the defendants.
A procedural problem arose as regards dismissal of the ethics charge, but Fuller cleared that up with his separate dismissal order.
Digmon declined comment on her ordeal this week, saying she would address the matter later.
Fletcher, who was the author of the news story that led to the four arrests, said he had ambiguous feelings about the dismissals.
“I thank God the charges were dropped, especially against Sherry, but I’m disappointed the case won’t go before a jury,” he said. “We had hoped to call the DA, the former school superintendent and several other high-profile names as witnesses and have them tell, under oath, why we were arrested, what we did wrong. It looks like we won’t get that chance now.”
Jackson, who is serving her third six-year term on the school board and retired after a 40-plus-year career with the county school system, said she had felt sure the case against her would go away, simply on its lack of merit.
“I am very thankful to be informed that, at the request of the Attorney General’s office, all charges against me have now been dropped,” Jackson said. “These have been incredibly difficult months for both me and my family. We were confident from Day 1 that when the truth was heard, I would be exonerated. This was indeed the case.”
Judge Charles R. Montgomery, who actively presides over Circuit Court in Choctaw and Washington counties, was appointed to preside over Jackson’s prosecution. The judge had left the words “dismissed with prejudice” out of his order dismissing her case but amended it to include that the charges may not be brought up again.
Jackson added that she hopes to legally have her name cleared and to see those responsible for her false arrest properly dealt with.
“I love this community and my school district … I will continue to serve both to the best of my ability,” she said. “As we move forward beyond this unfortunate situation, I desire to see my record expunged of the false charges filed against me. I also sincerely desire that those who are responsible for these unethical actions in this matter be held accountable.”
Fore’s attorney, Danny White of Brewton, had not returned by Tuesday’s press deadline a Monday call seeking comment on the dismissal of charges against his client, who was never formally indicted.