How to be a Professional Pain in the Neck: Public Records Requests

Public records requests are the easiest and fastest way to fact-check you opponents.

Public records requests are the easiest and fastest way to fact-check your opponents.

The Culture Distorters and liberal-progressive activist communities always have some of the most sensational stories, but half the time (okay, most of the time) they’re piling it on like pros.  The conservative and far-right community faces a lot when dealing with the liberal-progressive community, because, let’s face it, they”ve got better creative writing and art skills.  Yes, they’ve got a bigger mouth than most members of the far-right, but that same loud mouth and burning desire for sensationalism is also a major weakness.

Consider the case of Luke O’Donovan, a queer who was arrested for supposedly defending himself in a fight where he and multiple of his attackers were stabbed.  Fliers supporting the Let Luke Go campaign have been popping up around campus, and if you take it at face value like most of the kids around here then I’ve got a bridge to sell to you.

Despite what you may have heard, blogging and journalism are not the same thing.  There are some intersections of the two, and they are not as common as you might think.  Journalism as a profession demands a certain detached demeanor and impartiality, whereas bloggers don’t get anywhere unless they’re prepared to be biased and opinionated.  I don’t put bloggers in the same category as journalists because of how personally interested that most bloggers are, but there are some journalistic tricks of the trade that bloggers should be using.  Public records requests are the most reliable, easiest, and most authoritative fact checking opportunity to punch holes in the liberal-progressive spin.

Let Luke Go is one of the recent social justice campaigns that’s still hot on the ground.  The campaign’s main page gives us one highly sensational account of the incident which landed Luke in jail, and also provides a good example of why you never go full retard when writing polemics or hyperbole:

“On New Year’s Eve of 2013, Luke O’Donovan attended a house party in Reynoldstown, a neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia. Luke was seen dancing with and kissing other men at the party. Later in the night he was insulted with homophobic slurs, and attacked by several people at once. Luke unsuccessfully attempted to escape, at which point several witnesses reported watching between 5 and 12 men ganging-up on Luke and stomping on his head and body, evidently with the intent to kill him. Luke was called a faggot before and during the attack. Throughout the course of the attack, Luke and five others were stabbed. Luke was subsequently imprisoned and charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as well as one count of attempted murder. He spent two and a half weeks in jail without bond before being released under bond conditions that drastically affected his life. None of the other individuals involved in the altercation were charged.”

This account raises significantly more questions than it answers, and many of which will probably be resolved with a simple public records request from the Atlanta police department.

Here are the major questions that should be fact-checked:

-Did the police department investigate this event as a bias crime?

-Were there between five and twelve men attacking Luke at once?  Witness statements or police statements describing the incident should be sufficient here.

-Were any other persons charged with a crime in relation to the incident?  If so, how many people were charged, and what were their charges?

-Who was responsible for stabbing Luke?  Was this self inflicted, accidental, or the result of an attack from another person?

A journalist is not permitted to take hearsay as the truth.  A blogger can get away with a lot more (even more if the information alleged cannot be negatively or positively verified), but a blogger shouldn’t be trusting opposing news sources without attempting to verify a claim’s authenticity.  Big greasily sensational narratives like the one given at the Let Luke Go campaign page are usually very flimsy and will fall apart at the first piece of deeper investigation.

The synopsis of the event precipitating Luke’s incarceration is dubious, to say the least.  The more likely version of the story is that Luke was being an obnoxious queer who somehow managed to single-handedly piss off everyone at the party, and after having too much to drink pulled out a knife and tried to fight the same people that he had spent the whole night pissing on.  That’s not an improbable scenario considering the holes in the narrative.

But, how do we verify any of this?  Public records requests.

The incident in question occurred in Reynoldstown, a neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Atlanta Police Department should be the first stop for our records request, and as it turns out the APD has a section of their website specifically for public records requests.  If you want to fact-check your local anarchists, just go ask your local police department and sheriff’s office if they have a preferred form to filing public records requests.  Most records requests are free of charge, but others have a small fee associated with the required time to do the case research.  Always ask to be notified if the cost of the public records request will exceed a certain amount.  I always ask to be notified ahead of time if the records request fee will exceed $20.00 dollars.

All public offices served with a public records request are required to respond within seven working days of receiving the request, but it could take much longer to receive the requested material.  Again, this is dependent on the complexity and breadth of the request.  Success in filing a public records request requires an amount of particularity and specificity.  When filing your request you must be able to reasonably describe the alleged or actual event in enough detail to show that you are not “on a fishing trip” for random documents.  This will also help to keep down your records research fees.

I don’t know if I will be given copies of the witness statements, or any of the other information that I’ve requested, but there will be a follow-up story if or when I receive the records in question.  For the rest of my readers, don’t take the liberal-progressive left at their word.  Fact check them.  It’s easy, it’s usually free, and when you catch them in a lie it’s priceless.

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