SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Newly uncovered documents show a government employee in South Bend is attempting to have a journalist arrested for writing stories about potential government corruption and fraud that involve her.
Aisha Avance, Democrat Deputy at the St. Joseph County Voter Registration Office, lists two stories published by RNM that describe potential crimes and an investigation into taxpayer grant fraud, as evidence for harassment. In what appears to be an attempt to stop a journalist from obtaining information, the public official is seeking to have journalist Clifton French arrested. In the report, Avance claims RNM’s Clifton French is harassing her “by way of Facebook and his blog REAL News Michiana (RNM). He has written two articles in which he claims I falsely obtained a protection order against him and other false statements. See attached articles after being served.” She then copies the stories into the report as evidence. You can read both stories she’s referring to here and here. You can see the entire report she filed below.
All of this stems from a protection order Avance was able to obtain by lying to a judge about harassment.
On August 10th, at 10:54am, RNM approached the voter registration office, where Avance works, to speak with her regarding potential crimes involving taxpayer dollars. Video and audio of the entire interaction is below. Conversations at the office last about a minute and a half.
RNM published a story about the incident three days later, you can read that story here.
In the grammatically error ridden protective order, Avance claims RNM’s Clifton French “CAME TO PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT STATING HE WANTED TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT AN UNKOWN PERSON TO ME(AFTER I ASKED HIM 5MONTHS NOT TO KEEP CONTACTING ME). WAS ASKED SEVERAL TIMES TO LEAVE AND HE REFUSED TO LEAVEE MY JOB. WHEN I ASKED HIM TO STOP HARASSINGME ESPECIALLY AFTER A FALSE ARTICLE WRITTEN ABOUT ME BY HIM SEVERAL MONTHS AGO HE STILL REMAINED AT MY PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT. THE HARASSMENT IS UNMANTED AND IS CAUSING ME A DELY IN DOING MY JOB DUTIES.”
As you can tell in the audio posted, as soon as RNM is asked to leave, we do, contradicting the false claims made by Avance. Avance never asked RNM’s Clifton French to leave the public office. Instead it appears she asked Democrat Board Member Muhammad Shabazz to do so on her behalf.
Avance also claims “HE POSTED ME BY WAY OF PHOTO ON SOCIAL MEDIA WITH A FAKE STORY….AFTER I TOLD HIM STOP CONTACTING ME.”
Avance seems to be referring to a story published by RNM on March 15th, 2021. The story links Avance to a scandal involving nude photos circulating of the recently deceased. The story is factual with documents to prove what was reported. Her claims that the story is fake are false and deceptive. You can read that story here.
In another claim, Avance writes “HE CALLED HE ASKINGME ABOUT NUDE PHOTO’S OF DECEASE HOMICIDE VICTIMS TOLD AN THING DEALING WITH PHOTOS ARE CONSENTED AND CONFIDENTIAL AT THAT TIME I ALSO ASK HIM TO STOP CONTACTING ME BY PHONE, SOCIAL MEDIA OR IN PERSON.”
Avance is referring to an RNM investigation that linked her to a scheme where a local activist was taking nude photos of the recently deceased at a local funeral home. That story was eventually covered by multiple news outlets. You can read about that here and here. RNM also recorded the conversation in this interaction. Avance told the reporter to not call her work phone. There was no mention of visiting the office, contacting her via social media or in person.
Avance is a public employee who is subject to public scrutiny since she is paid with tax dollars. Avance and her non-profit, CHOICES for Life South Bend, also received thousands of taxpayer dollars via a city grant to help reduce gun violence. RNM is currently investigating potential fraud and criminal activities being committed by multiple grant awardees.
It appears Avance is attempting to manipulate the legal system through false statements to prevent RNM from conducting its good-faith investigation.
Since the order was issued, RNM has not reached out to Avance on Facebook, as she seems to implicate in her bogus report. RNM has made no attempt to reach Avance since the incident on August 10th, which was recorded by RNM from beginning to end.
The Judge who signed the original protective order is Andre Gammage, who ran for St. Joseph County Probate Judge as a Democrat. Gammage’s decision appears to be political in nature.
Indiana Satute 34-26-5-2 addresses the standard one needs to meet in order to obtain such an order.
A person who is or has been subjected to harassment may file a petition for an order for protection against a person who has committed repeated acts of harassment against the petitioner. (if)
(A) person who has committed stalking under IC 35-45-10-5 or a sex offense under IC 35-42-4 against the child;
Stalking is defined under in Indiana code as:
(b) The offense is a Level 5 felony if at least one (1) of the following applies:
(1) A person:
(A) stalks a victim; and
(B) makes an explicit or an implicit threat with the intent to place the victim in reasonable fear of:
(i) sexual battery (as defined in IC 35-42-4-8 );
(ii) serious bodily injury; or
Even if Avance’s allegations were true, the judge should not have granted this order and instead is infringing on the first amendment rights of a journalist and impairing the public’s ability to find out the truth regarding potential crimes being committed using taxpayer dollars.
The order has now effectively prevented RNM from reporting on any city and county business by preventing our journalist from visiting the County-City building.
RNM is immediately seeking to have the protective order overturned and has already filed paperwork demanding the soonest available hearing.
RNM is also seeking an investigation into Judge Gammage.
RNM is exploring options to seek monetary damages caused by the erroneous report and subsequent protective order, preventing RNM from providing content to its readers.
It is RNM’s opinion that officials within the St. Joseph County government and the government of the City of South Bend are using whatever avenues they can to prevent a free press from uncovering potential crimes being committed within their ranks.
As of publication, no warrants have been issued for the journalist’s arrest.
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