Hallburn Convicted, Files Appeal
Lawrence Allows State To Violate Subpoena
PutnamLIVE.com Publisher Mark Hallburn is appealing his misdemeanor conviction of Interfering with a Government Agency after his July 19, 2013 trial in front of Putnam County Magistrate Scot A. Lawrence. (Editorial Update: The Appeal hearing now set for Aug 7)
“This is a travesty,” says Hallburn. “In Putnam County, ‘Prior Restraint’ has replaced The First Amendment as the law of our land. Reporters are allowed to be harassed by government officials who do not want to be exposed. This is a blatant attack on Freedom of the Press and the public’s right to know about government spending and conduct.”
Hallburn says he knew he was in trouble with Lawrence from the beginning.
“First he banned cameras from the courtroom,” recalls Hallburn. “Judges that are fair and believe in transparency and Freedom of the Press don’t ban cameras. Then he refused to dismiss the case despite the health department’s failure to produce a single document that was legally subpoenaed. As I said, this is a travesty. I was railroaded.”
Hallburn was arrested April 2nd, 2013, after he appeared for a confirmed appointment at the Putnam County Health Department to review financial documents showing that the department is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
PutnamLIVE.com’s Freedom of Information Act Request was emailed to the department March 18th, 2013 after then Administrator Joel M. McKinney failed to return calls.
This is an official Freedom of Information Act request to review ALL of the Putnam County Health Department’s financial records dating back to 2010. These include invoices, receipts, building lease agreements, contracts, payments to attorney Karen Miller, payroll records, bills, past due notices, and all other financial documents not specified here. We have heard that PCHD is behind in rent, payroll, and other bills. I also request to review all PCHD vehicle mileage logs and maintenance records and gasoline payments/bills, etc., et al.
You have failed to return multiple telephone calls and your staff (needlessly) called the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department when I have VIDEO RECORDINGS of me POLITELY asking to speak to you while seated inside my car. This video was shown to the deputy who quickly realized that I HAD NOT committed a crime or threatened your staff as was FALSELY alleged.
You have five business days to respond to this request. Please respond to me at this email address to mutually set up the time for me and my associate to come and view these records.
cc: Steve Deweese, Putnam County Sheriff
Lawrence sentenced Hallburn to 45 days in jail, all of which is stayed by the De Novo appeal of the case. No hearing date has been set as of this publication.
“Magistrates take oaths of office to uphold the law,” says Hallburn. “The United States Constitution is the highest law of our land. Lawrence and Sorsaia know better than to rule against or take action against the press and the Constitution.” Hallburn plans to file a complaint with the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission against Lawrence and Sorsaia with the West Virginia Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
McKinney has yet to comply with the Freedom of Information Act Request, Lawrence has yet to order McKinney to comply, and Putnam County Prosecutor Mark A. Sorsaia has refused to prosecute McKinney for failing to comply which is no surprise as Sorsaia has a long history of allowing Putnam County officials to break West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act law.
Like the Judge Watkins fiasco, this court case is gaining national attention
“This is another example of big brother and big government,” says Robert M. Werner, of Fathers For Justice.com of Florida and New York. “Mark Hallburn is being persecuted and falsely imprisoned. These actions are unacceptable by our government when they are not conforming to rules. The Fathers For Justice organization is gearing up to bring light to the very negative situation and to make the people aware of the corruption. We cannot tolerate Big Brother falsely imprisoning a fellow citizen who is solely doing its job. This government needs to understand that this will not be tolerated.”
“Based upon my review of the information in my possession, it appears to me that the sanctions imposed are excessive and clearly disproportionate to the alleged offense. The thought that comes to mind is there are retaliatory elements comprising the sanctions that have been imposed,” says R.K. Hendrick of Friends of Protection for Men, Portland, Oregon.
“It’s pretty clear to me from our investigations not just in the Hallburn case but in other cases we’ve covered that the West Virginia judicial system is full of people who routinely abuse their power, especially if someone makes the mistake of giving them a gavel and a robe,” says Dean Esmay, of AVoiceForMen.com. “The persecution of Hallburn is egregious, but it’s symptomatic of a wider problem of lack of respect for basic civil rights, especially for men, that seems to permeate the entire state.”
Lawrence, Sorsaia, Putnam County Commissioner/Former Putnam County Health Board Member Raymond “Joe” Haynes, and Watkins are all Republicans. “Is that a coincidence?” asks Hallburn, “Are they sticking together for political reasons? I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
Hallburn stated in court that the Putnam County Health Department “self-reported” $216,000 in debt. “We still haven’t seen those documents. How do we know that the debt isn’t double the $216,000. Do we simply trust the department to be honest with the taxpayers? I don’t. I want to see the real documents. But Deputy Savilla and Magistrate Lawrence got suckered by McKinney and are keeping the people from knowing the truth.”
Meanwhile, Hallburn is filing a 18-point Motion for Reconsideration with Lawrence. “Once he looks at the facts and points, a reversal is obviously the only fair and just option,” says Hallburn.
The points are:
- The state failed to comply with a single element of the subpoena. McKinney failed to supply any documentation from the Health Department’s IT employee and/or contractor or anyone else to back up his obviously false testimony that he has no ability to acquire any emails, notes, memos, et al, etc. If such documents have since been destroyed (because the health department closed) then the department is guilty of destroying evidence that was legally and properly subpoenaed. The case should have been dismissed on this issue alone.
- McKinney’s comments, including, “I just wanted him out of my hair” indicate that he had no intention of ever cooperating with Mark Halburn and the Freedom of Information Act. His body language and tone of voice strongly indicated his contempt for Mark Halburn and the duties of the press.
- McKinney’s testimony that Mark was in the building “for hours” contradicts all other witness statements of a 10-15 minute time frame. (Sheriff Steve Deweese and the West Virginia State Police have been asked to arrest McKinney on a perjury charge).
- Trena Smith indicated that Mark was told that he could call for his appointment to review records and contradicted McKinney’s testimony.
- Halburn wasn’t in the building long enough to be a disruption to anyone.
- Halburn never entered a restricted area and was only in front of the reception desk or in the waiting area or elevator. These are clearly public areas.
- The court failed to acknowledge that Halburn attempted to communicate with McKinney by email but that McKinney’s email system failed to work properly.
- Halburn was told that appointments could be made by telephone and properly complied-after it was discovered that McKinney’s email failed to work properly.
- Halburn was arrested for trespassing. The charge was later changed to cover up a false arrest. The state is making up the rules as it goes along.
- The First Amendment of the United States Constitution makes no requirement that appointments be made to review government documents-let alone by email. Code 29(b) does not require that appointments be made by email.
- The April 1 document the McKinney refers to, the discusses email, only states that FOIA “Requests” are required to be made by email or letter. It says NOTHING about the appointment time to review documents which is what is in question here.
- Trena Smith testified that Mark Halburn showed up at a time other than what was designated during the appointment times stated by McKinney. However, she indicated that he was there at a time that was within those time frames. She contradicted herself and is a witness with no credibility.
- The state failed to provide a single customer witness to backup the false claims that customers could not do business while Halburn was in the office.
- Other than to state that Halburn was “loud” the state failed to testify that he used abusive or vulgar language. The only statement that was made was that he repeated Cary Eden’s first name. Nothing that Mark Halburn said or did was illegal in any way, shape or form.
- Mr. Halburn was leaving the building when he was arrested and planned to file the appropriate paperwork. However, he was intercepted before he could file his appeal of the FOIA violation in circuit court.
- The court ignored testimony that Mark Halburn is deaf in one ear and has a naturally loud voice. Having a loud voice is not illegal. At no point did anyone testify that Mark Halburn screamed at anyone.
- Every state witness contradicted themselves and each other. As such, all testimony should be discounted and dismissed completely.
- It is obvious that Putnam County Health Department officials have no respect for the press and are guilty of Prior Restraint to cover up the mismanagement of the department and its finances that have resulted in the closure of the department.
Hallburn’s Putnam County Magistrate Court case number is: 13C, 607.
PCHD Harasses Publisher
Publisher’s note: All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
A criminal complaint is a legal document that is usually filled out by a law enforcement officer presenting evidence to a judge or magistrate. The judicial official determines if the officer has provided enough evidence to issue a complaint or a warrant for a suspect arrest.
Mug shots are provided courtesy of the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority.