A conservative blogger who claims he was told by law enforcement that Michael Brown had a juvenile arrest history has filed a lawsuit seeking to obtain the alleged records.
Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9 in an incident that sparked weeks of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Though it’s been confirmed that the black 18-year-old was unarmed, many questions surrounding the shooting remain unanswered.
Charles C. Johnson, a blogger and journalist who recently launched a website called GotNews.com, filed a lawsuit last week seeking Brown’s records from the office of Paul Fox, director of judicial administration for the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. In the lawsuit, Johnson claims he had previously sought the records under Missouri’s 41-year-old “Sunshine Law,” which gives the public the right to request information from the government and says requests for information must be responded to within three business days. Johnson says his request was denied by Fox’s office.
Brown, who turned 18 shortly before he was killed, had no adult criminal record. Juvenile records are strictly guarded under Missouri law, but Johnson argues that the circumstances surrounding Brown’s death have become an object of overwhelming public interest. In a blog post on his website, Johnson wrote that knowing the truth about Brown’s past “will help us gauge the credibility of his parents and family, who have called him a ‘gentle giant.’” He also claimed that he was told by two different St. Louis law-enforcement sources that Brown had a juvenile arrest record, and cited rumors that Brown was the member of a gang.
In an interview with CBS St. Louis Wednesday, attorney Johnathon Burns, who filed the case, said because Brown is deceased, his juvenile documents should revert back into the public sphere. “Missouri common law applies, and under Missouri common law, court records and virtually all other documents are open to the public,” he said.
Since the story of Brown’s death first broke, media depictions of his character have been contentious. On Monday, a New York Times profile describing Brown as “no angel” sparked outrage among readers and prompted criticism from the paper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan.
Johnson, who recently raised more than $11,000 on GoFundMe for “investigative journalism research,” is not averse to ruffling feathers. He has appeared on Fox News and written for right-leaning sites like the Daily Caller, but he has objected in Twitter posts to being labeled either a “conservative” or a “blogger.” Last month, the Washington Post’s Wonkette blog published aroundup of tweets in which Johnson referred to himself as an “award-winning journalist.”