Open Records Act: Controversy Surrounding Mugshots on Internet - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Open Records Act: Controversy Surrounding Mugshots on Internet

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This week, we told you that Georgia lawmakers are recommending some changes to the Open Records Act.

The changes would restrict access to arrest information and mug shots.
Some people oppose the changes because they feel the government should be open, but others say arrest information should be kept private until proven guilty.

News Channel 6's Mike Miller is always investigating. He has the story.

Alexa Gosby spends most of her free time playing with her 4-month-old daughter, but when she isn't doing that, she's studying to become a real estate agent, however, that could be a problem, because she was arrested in 2012 and her mug shot is still on the internet.

"Well, there were 2 charges for forgery and I had turned myself in for everything. And I ended up getting the charges dropped. I worked it out with the person and the charges were dropped, but even last night, I went on there, and it's still on the internet."

When you type in Alexa Gosby on Google, her AugustaCrime.com mugshot is the 6th result. Gosby is afraid that when she gets her real estate license, people may judge her.

"It would prevent people from trusting me with their business and with their money. Not necessarily handling their money, but they will think twice, can I trust this person with making a deal for me and can I trust being around this person?"

Although she lives in South Carolina, Gosby says she was excited to hear about a possible change to the Georgia Open Records Act that would prevent the release of mug shot photos until a person is convicted.

"People going through that kind of stuff and then it's dropped and then you still have it following you around even though it's no longer on record, it's no longer with the Sheriff's Department. Your past has been expunged with them, but it's still there."

Senator Hardie Davis says he is hoping the changes to the Open Records Act will help convicted criminals integrate back into society, but Greg Rickabaugh, the owner of The Jail Report, says the changes would allow law enforcement agencies to arrest people in secret.

"The 1st amendment allows for freedom of the press to know what's going on. We do not live in Russia. We do not live in a police state where these kinds of crimes are kept private."

Rickabaugh says Chad Stefani's case is a perfect example of why mug shots are needed.

"Really the only reason he was arrested as a serial flasher was because we ran his mugshot after his Augusta arrest. Victims from across the CSRA were able to identify him as the man who flashed them."

But Gosby says mug shots should only be used in certain situations.

"You know, if they are out on bond and they are a murderer, people want to know. They want to be weary of this person. So I think it's kind of a toss-up."

There are crime websites out there that force people to pay money to have their mugshots removed, but Rickabaugh says he doesn't believe in that because that's a form of extortion.

"Augustacrime.com has never charged a penny. Once somebody shows that they have been found not guilty, then we will take it down."

Attorney David Hudson, who is the council for the Georgia Press Association, says he doesn't expect a bill like this to get a lot of support, especially from employers. That's because employers will obviously want to know as much information about the people they are hiring. Now if you have a story idea you want me to look into, you can email me at investigate at wjbf dot com.

I'm Mike Miller, For WJBF Investigates.

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