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Sheriff's spokesman charges editor with harassment

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  1. Newsgathering
The spokesman for a North Carolina sheriff's office has filed criminal harassment charges against the editor and publisher of news@norman,…

The spokesman for a North Carolina sheriff’s office has filed criminal harassment charges against the editor and publisher of news@norman, a weekly newspaper, the paper reported.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jon Mayhew filed the criminal complaint Friday with the magistrate’s office against news@norman editor and publisher Ken Fortenberry, according to the paper. The magistrate’s office then issued a summons for Fortenberry to appear in court.

In addition to his duties as spokesman, Mayhew operates a competing news Web site called The Carolina Scoop. The news@norman reportedly threatened to sue the Scoop after it ran a story about the financial health of the weekly paper, which news@norman claimed was false.  Mayhew then told the paper it was being cut off from the sheriff’s office e-mail distribution lists and any further attempts to contact him would be "considered harassment," according to the paper. He then filed a harassment charge against the editor.

"The sheriff and his spokesman have stooped to a new and despicable low in violating a citizen’s constitutional rights to free speech and by attempting to intimidate a newspaper that is simply doing its job," Fortenberry told his newspaper.

The harassment charge against the editor follows a number of scandals in the sheriff’s office in the last six months that include deputies attempting to learn the identity of an anonymous blogger, who was critical of the department, by obtaining a search warrant to get information from Google, The Charlotte Observer reported.