Judge allows Meridian man's city records requests

Lauderdale County Courthouse

A Lauderdale County Circuit Court judge has ruled a man charged with cyberstalking has not violated the conditions of his bond by requesting information from the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County.

On Aug. 21, Judge Charles Wright Jr. responded to a motion by 10th Circuit Assistant District Attorney Patrick Stubbs, asking for clarity on Mitchel Marshall's bond conditions.

“The Court shall not deter a defendant from investigating the charges against him in a manner of his discretion,” the order states. “The Court further finds that the Defendant has not violated the Court’s Order Rescinding Bench Warrant and Setting Bond by requesting information from the City of Meridian and Lauderdale County pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.”

Judge Wright’s order was “vindication for Mitchel Marshall’s right to defend himself against charges that we believe are baseless and an attempt to stifle freedom of speech,” said Marshall's attorney, Matt Baldridge. 

Stubbs' motion referenced a September 2018 order by Judge Wright that said Marshall “shall not have any contact and/or communication with Bob Luke, his business and/or his family by any means…nor shall he procure same through third parties.”

“The victim, Bob Luke, believes these requests are designed to harass him and his business and therefore are in violation of the Court’s Order, which forbids any contact through third parties,” Stubbs' motion said.

According to court papers, a grand jury indicted Marshall with cyberstalking in May 2019, stating that between March 31, 2018 through April 11, 2018, he sent numerous text messages “for the purpose of threatening, terrifying, or harassing Bob Luke.”

That same month, Luke, an architect and managing principal of LPK Architects, P.A., filed a complaint for a protective order against the city of Meridian in Lauderdale County Chancery Court.

The complaint said Marshall and his attorney issued 12 Requests For Information from Meridian from Nov. 16, 2018 through May 15, 2019.

The document states: “If the requested information is provided to Mr. Marshall, a direct competitor of PLAINTIFFS, it would have a detrimental and long lasting impact on PLAINTIFFS business and the economic development plans of the DEFENDANT and Lauderdale County.”

The filing said the court should issue a protective order directing the city of Meridian to withhold the information requested by Marshall.

Baldridge said Luke’s complaint is intended to stop Marshall from getting public records and that Luke's testimony in circuit court indicated that Marshall was not a direct competitor. 

Luke's attorney, Bill Ready Jr., who wrote the complaint for a protective order, said Thursday that he considered Luke and Marshall to be competitors because they are both architects working in the same city and county. 

According to Ready, Chancery Court Judge Charlie Smith held a motion hearing about the complaint on Monday.

Luke was asking the judge how he and the city of Meridian should proceed in reviewing the information Marshall requested to determine what could be released, Ready said. 

"There are currently no pending public records requests with the city of Meridian that were filed by Mr. Marshall involving communication to or from Bob Luke," Baldridge said Wednesday. 

Ready said he wasn't clear which, if any, public records requests Marshall had withdrawn as relates to the complaint for protective order and that Judge Smith had indicated he would wait to rule on a motion until he had clarification on what Marshall had withdrawn.   

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