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Jonesboro paper says police chief bullied reporter

August 21, 2014

JONESBORO — The publisher of the Jonesboro Sun newspaper wants the city police chief to quit, saying the chief bullied a reporter into quitting by making a series of derogatory statements about her on Facebook.

In a story published Wednesday, Sun Publisher David Mosesso said Chief Michael Yates had maligned Sunshine Crump's character and was interfering with The Sun's ability to conduct its business.

"Any other entity would have already fired or suspended an employee who made these types of vindictive comments," Mosesso said.

City Attorney Phillip Crego said an investigation had started "but we need all the facts before we decide if disciplinary action is warranted." Mayor Harold Perrin declined comment.

Yates did not return a call from The Associated Press, but told the newspaper he was exercising his free speech rights.

"Wonder if ole Sunshine (reporter) could pass a drug test," Yates wrote on one post. "Why yes, she has been arrested before."

Another compared her to dog excrement and one mentioned a lapsed law license in Texas. The newspaper said Crump gave up practicing law of her own accord and stopped paying fees; Texas court records aren't as specific, showing her as having an administrative suspension that could be due to a failure to pay fees.

The newspaper said the trouble began when Crump wrote a story that said Yates taught at Arkansas State University without having a proper permission form on file with the city.

A lawyer for the newspaper, John E. Tull III, wrote to the city attorney saying Yates' remarks were unprofessional at the least.

"As you can see, even without any knowledge of Ms. Crump, Chief Yates has made several false and defamatory statements of fact concerning Ms. Crump," the letter said.

Yates also had posted that he intended to hurt The Sun's business: "I intend to help that ship sink ... torpedoes away!" The city recently began delaying when it releases its daily log of police activity.

The chief told the paper the delay was necessary so officers could redact sensitive information; Tull cautioned the city against "tortious interference" with The Sun's ability to do business.

 

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