ATLANTA — The jury has come back with a guilty verdict in the first trial involving violations of Georgia’s Open Records Act.
Jenna Garland, a top aide to former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, was criminally charged in 2017 with blocking access to public information after she ordered workers to delay Channel 2 Action News’ request for information regarding the mayor’s water bills.
Prosecutors played back an interview with FBI agents where she said she wished she handled the situation differently.
BREAKING: Fulton County jury finds Jenna Garland, press secretary for former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, GUILTY of violating Georgia's Open Records Act. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/IcS9MIsKuw— Aaron Diamant (@AaronDiamantWSB) December 19, 2019
“When I fired off these text messages, I let my temper get the best of me. It was just one of these moments. I had a bad day," Garland said on the recording.
Her defense said the text messages saying to “Be as unhelpful as possible” and “drag this out as long as possible” were not meant as a directive.
State Attorney General Chris Carr called the decision a good day for Georgia.
“We’re very pleased. You know, the law has to mean something,” Carr said.
Carr told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant that the jury’s verdict sends a strong message.
“Open meetings and open records are the way that the people of Georgia get to hold officials accountable, and this is where the facts took us, and I’m very proud of the prosecutors that we have,” Carr said.
Garland’s defense attorney, Scott Grubman, said he respects the jury’s decision but plans to appeal the verdict for his client.
“She’s devastated, and I really feel for her and her family,” Grubman said.
Garland faced two misdemeanor charges. The judge sentenced her to pay a $1,500 fine on the two counts.
Following the verdict, the outgoing president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation sent Channel 2 Action News a statement, saying:
“Very sad for Jenna, but happy for the citizens of Atlanta. Normally no one wins in a criminal case, but this is a win: It is a reaffirmation that the public’s records belong to the public. Kudos to the attorney general and his team for seeing this for what it was and pursuing the appropriate remedy.”
- 'Drag this out': Texts reveal Reed administration's effort to keep public records from WSB
- Text messages may link Kasim Reed to potential violations of state open records law
- State AG on investigation into Reed's press office: 'The law needs to mean something'
- City of Atlanta agrees to settle records case with AJC, WSB-TV
- Mayor Reed’s former press secretary criminally charged with open records violations
- Aide to former Mayor Kasim Reed pleads not guilty in records case
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