Last week, WAGA’s Dale Russell did a piece that linked DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones to the DeKalb judge who awarded attorney fees to the lawyers for admitted perjurer (and prolific baby-daddy) Bishop Earl Paulk. The story showed that Jones and Judge Mark Anthony Scott are friends. Jones contributed to Scott’s campaign for Judge. Scott’s ruling let Jones off the hook from testifying in the Paulk trial, at least temporarily. A courtroom appearance in this case may have been embarrassing for Jones, who’s running for US Senate.
No doubt, Jones’s camp howled at WAGA management about the story. That’s because the only on-camera critic of the ruling was J. Tom Morgan– a former DA whose open disdain for Jones runs every bit as deep as the friendship between Jones and Scott. Morgan spoke articulately about why the ruling, and the relationship mattered. Russell is perhaps the best investigative reporter in town. But Russell had to know that Jones’s people– who famously cry and moan about any unfavorable coverage– would raise a stink about this. Likewise, casual observers familiar with DeKalb politics might watch this story and say: Oh well– that’s J. Tom beating up on Vernon again.
The story was about political ties tainting a judicial proceeding. No doubt, the judge (and Jones) deserved the scrutiny. But political ties— Morgan v. Jones– tainted Russell’s story too. If the issue was so troubling, Russell should have been able to strengthen his story by finding a critic other than a longtime enemy of Vernon Jones. Maybe he’s saving it for the follow-up.