Subpoena that Landed Journalist Mark Thomason and Attorney Russell Stookey in Jail


In the case of the Fannin Focus publisher Mark Brannon Thomason and Attorney Russell Stookey,  there a several questions that remain unanswered about the subpoena for bank records. How did they get the bank account number on the subpoena? Who gave them checks with the account number? Thomason said some checks appeared to have been cashed. Who told him the checks appeared to have been cashed? FYN held interviews with Russell Stookey, Fannin County Financial Director Rita Davis Kirby. Subsequent to those interviews, Mark Thomason released a statement concerning the checks, but first some back story.

Thomason and Stookey were arrested Friday 6-24-16. Thomason was charged with three counts; identity fraud, attempt to commit identity fraud and making a false statement. Stookey was charged with two counts; identity fraud and attempt to commit identity fraud.

Appalachian Judicial District Chief Superior Court Brenda Weaver filed the complaint with the District Attorney’s office. DA,  B. Alison Sosebee presented the charges to a Pickens County Grand Jury made up of sixteen citizens. The Grand Jury returned true bills on both Thomason and Stookey.

The State and National media pounced on the sensationalism of “journalist went to jail violating his First Amendment Rights, freedom of the press”. They didn’t seem to be interested in researching any of the facts of the case. So why should they research when they have hooked the big fish, head of the JQC (Judicial Qualifying Commission), Brenda Weaver. Now that is a fish you don’t throw back into the water regardless the facts.

Judge Weaver sent DA Sosebee a letter requesting the charges against Thomason and Stookey be dropped. DA Sosebee has prepared a motion to have the case dropped.

Senior Judge Richard Winegarden has announced he will hold a hearing for the dismissal of the charges brought against Mark Thomason and Russell Stookey on July 18 at 3pm in Pickens County court.

If Judge Winegarden dismisses the case, that still begs the question, were the un-redacted checks given to Thomason or Stookey or both?

When an open records request is filed with the County for banking information, it is the responsibility of the County CFO to redact the account and routing numbers from the check before releasing the check. The Fannin County CFO is Rita Davis Kirby.

FYN interviewed Russell Stookey Tuesday on our morning show, “Good Morning from the Office”. Here is the transcript of some questions we asked Stookey about the subpoena and checks during our interview.


What were you looking for with the subpoena?

Copy of the redacted subpoena. Question how did they know what check number they were looking for?

Copy of the redacted subpoena. Question – how did they know what check number they were looking for?


“We were looking for one check, that’s all we needed. We got in trouble because we were asking for that one check”.

The subpoena on Stearns Bank had account numbers on it and during the interview, Stooked agreed that when you do an open records request for checks, the account numbers are to be redacted..


Where did you get the bank account numbers to do the subpoena?


“ They were from checks that had been used to pay other bills,”

I showed Stookey a copy of the subpoena on my computer.


“This is the subpoena that was been posted online.”


“That’s the first time I have seen that”


“Where did you get the checks?”


“I believe he (Thomason) got those checks from either the County Attorney or I think it might have been Mrs Kirby.”


“So you already had some so checks from 2015?”


“I don’t know…I never saw the checks.”


“You never saw them?”


“I never saw the checks.”


“Checks appeared to have been cashed?”


“A banking officer had told Mark that a check appeared to be irregular because it had been cashed.”

I asked Stookey if he had seen the letters from the three county CFO’s (Pickens – Faye Harvey, Gilmer – Sandi Holden and Fannin – Rita Kirby) stating that after reviewing the checks that they appeared to be properly endorsed and deposited. Stookey responded that he had not seen them but he was aware of them.

Click to watch our video interview with Russell Stookey.

After our interview with Stookey, Mark Thomason the publisher of the Fannin Focus released the following statement:  “Any and all information contained on a subpoena served to Stearns Bank was acquired through open records request filed on Fannin County by Mark Thomason. Copies of checks and any banking information were provided to the Fannin Focus by Fannin County Financial Director, Rita Kirby. No banking numbers were redacted by Mrs. Kirby and were disclosed through a proper open records request that was filed”.

FYN interviewed Fannin County Chief Financial Director Rita Davis Kirby last Friday live on our show from Sycamore Crossing in downtown Blue Ridge.


“Did you give un-redacted checks to Mark Thomason?”


“First and foremost, I did not give them (the checks) to Mark Thomason. The checks he received were received through means other than myself.  I gave those checks he’s talking about directly to our County Attorney Lynn Doss”.


“Did you give un-redacted checks to County Attorney Lynn Doss?”


“Yes, the County has attorney client privilege.”


You did give checks?


“I did”.


County Attorney asked for them?


“She did”.


And you gave them to her?




Not Mark Thomason?


“Not Mark Thomason”.

Click to watch our video interview with Rita Davis Kirby.

Please note: It is not necessary for Kirby to redact information when giving the information to the County Attorney.

When Kirby wrote her letter concerning her review of checks possibly being cashed, she stated that the checks appeared to be endorsed and deposited properly but Kirby went one step further by referencing her previous banking career.

After Kirby’s comments stating that she gave the checks to County Attorney Lynn Doss,  FYN reached out to Doss for a comment. Doss sent FYN the following response:

Sir: As you are aware there are pending investigations as to the matters

you referenced. As you are also aware, I am listed as a witness.  

Therefore, it is not appropriate for me to make any comment.  Thank you”.

Judge Richard Winegarden may dismiss the case against Thomason and Stookey Monday but one thing is for sure, he can’t dismiss the facts. FYN has done an open records request for the complete file on this case. We want to know the full story concerning the checks. This story will not end Monday…it will be just the beginning.

Related Stories.

Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Thomason Arrested, Journalist or Vendetta?

Ads in Fannin Focus do not show up correctly in Sheriff Candidates Campaign Financial Reports

Superior Court Judge Weaver Drops charges, Publisher Mark Thomason will not stand trial

Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Thomason Arrested along with Thomason’s Attorney Stookey – Transported to Pickens Jail

Fannin Focus Publisher Mark Thomason Indicted along with attorney Russell Stookey, 1 Count Making False Statement, 2 counts Identity Fraud





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