FBI looking into North Georgia court's spending

Federal investigators have received documents and conducted some initial interviews regarding the spending of Brenda Weaver, the North Georgia Superior Court judge who was involved in the jailing earlier this month of a journalist and his lawyer.

Following the dismissal of the charges against him Monday, attorney Russell Stookey said the FBI had requested documents from him and his client, Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason.

Earlier this month, Thomason and Stookey were slapped with multiple felony charges, including making false statements and attempted identity theft, after Thomason sought public accounting records on Weaver's spending of taxpayer money. When the charges made national headlines, District Attorney Alison Sosebee asked the charges be dropped and included a letter from Weaver with the same sentiment.

Attorney Russell Stookey, right, talks to media following the dismissal of charges against him Monday. Stookey said he has provided information to federal agents regarding spending by judges in Fannin County. CHRIS JOYNER/CJOYNER@AJC.COM

Stookey said he had provided investigators with some of the financial accounting records he and Thomason had acquired.

In a WSB-TV report, Fannin County attorney Lynn Doss said she had been contacted by the FBI three times this year and asked to provide copies of county checks. In the report, WSB investigative reporter Mark Winne said Weaver released a statement to him that she had contacted the FBI and turned over checks from 2013 to the present from the three-county circuit's judicial operating account. In her statement, Weaver said she had been assured by the chief financial officers in her circuit that "there were no improprieties."

FBI agents also requested checks written by now retired Judge Roger Bradley, according to the WSB report.

The interest of federal investigators is another twist in a tale with many twists already. In Monday's procedural hearing to drop the charges against Thomason and Stookey, members of the media were held two floors away from the courtroom until they were ordered brought in by Senior Judge Richard Winegarden. Winegarden then questioned each of the journalists individually before proceeding with the hearing.

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About the Author

Chris Joyner
Chris Joyner
Chris Joyner is an investigative reporter. An Atlanta native, Joyner has been with the AJC since 2010.