- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

JASPER, Ga. (AP) - A lawyer who had been jailed along with his client in an open records dispute says federal investigators asked him for court financial records he had obtained.

Russell Stookey told reporters after the charges were dismissed that the FBI asked him and his client, Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, for those records, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (https://on-ajc.com/2agIfLM ).

Special Agent Stephen Emmett, an FBI spokesman, declined Friday to comment or confirm an investigation.

Stookey and Thomason were indicted June 24 on charges of identity theft and attempt to commit identity theft stemming from subpoenas they issued. The indictment also accused Thomason of making a false statement in an Open Records Act request. A judge dismissed the charges Monday at the prosecutor’s request.

The case stems from a legal battle between Thomason and court reporter Rhonda Stubblefield. Thomason was seeking an audio recording of a court proceeding before then-Judge Roger Bradley because he believed the transcript produced by Stubblefield was incomplete.

He tried to use the courts to compel her to release the audio recording and also wrote a story saying the transcript might not be accurate. Stubblefield sued him for libel.

A judge ended up dismissing Thomason’s claim, and Stubblefield dropped her counterclaim. But Stubblefield subsequently filed paperwork asking to be reimbursed for attorney’s fees, even though she had been paid nearly $16,000 from Bradley’s operating account.

Weaver said the judges decided to use court money to cover the court reporter’s legal expenses since they stemmed from her work for the court.

Sosebee brought the charges at the request of Appalachian Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Brenda Weaver, who is named as a victim in the indictment, after Weaver learned about subpoenas seeking records for her office’s operating account and for the operating account of Bradley, who is no longer on the bench.

Stookey said he gave investigators some of the court financial records he and Thomason had gathered.

Fannin County attorney Lynn Doss told WSB-TV that the FBI had contacted her three times asking for copies of county checks.

Weaver said she had given the FBI checks from the judicial circuit’s operating account from 2013 to the present, the television station reported. Weaver said the chief financial officers in the circuit told her “there were no improprieties.”

WSB-TV reports that federal investigators also asked for checks written by Bradley.

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