SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Honorable Magistrate Judge Julie Verheye citied the constitution when she tossed out an erroneous protective order filed by a government employee against REAL News Michiana Journalist Clifton French, who had been investigating potential crimes and corruption involving St. Joseph County Voter Registration employee Aisha Avance.
“By preponderance of the evidence, through testimony given the Court find the incidents do not meet the requirements for the Court to issue a Protective Order.” The final ruling reads.
“Today’s verdict was a vindication of Mr. French’s Constitutional rights as a journalist and a victory for news organizations everywhere.” Attorney Andrew Jones, who represented Mr. French, said. “I thank the Court for its thoughtful decision to dismiss this frivolous attempt to infringe on the constitutionally protected work of REAL News Michiana.”
A previous Magistrate and Democrat activist, Andre Gammage, granted an ex parte order, without a hearing, preventing RNM from physically being within 300 yards of the County-City Building — essentially preventing RNM from reporting on any story involving county and city government, courts and other stories in the downtown South Bend area for nearly 3 months. You can read about that here.
RNM’s investigations into Avance and her associates have uncovered many disturbing stories, including a scheme where a local activist was taking nude photos of the recently deceased at a local funeral home, then sharing those photos with numerous people, including employees of the St. Joseph County Voter Registration Office. RNM’s investigations uncovered taxpayer grant fraud involving Avance as well.
In the course of 5 months, RNM Journalist Clifton French had reached out to Avance 3 times for comments on stories. The first time was a phone call in March to the voter registration officer where she cursed and quickly hung up the phone. The second time was several days later, involving a different story, where RNM called her cell phone. Avance did not answer.
The third attempt to get comment on another story was in August when RNM physically went to the Voter Registration office. That entire interaction lasted about a minute and a half, all of which was recorded. That recording can be seen below.
Avance lied under oath during the hearing, claiming RNM refused to leave the Voter Registration Office after being asked. As you can hear in the video, as soon as RNM is asked to leave, we do.
Avance also admitted, under oath, that the original protective order paperwork was completed by Justice for Michiana, an organization founded and operated by Vernado Malone, an alleged sexual predator who has also been convicted of multiple crimes involving federal fraud.
RNM is now exploring all legal options against St. Joseph County, Avance, Justice for Michiana and other associates for damages caused.
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