Officer questions LaFayette Underground blogger critical of police

Officer questions LaFayette Underground blogger critical of police

December 1st, 2011 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

The LaFayette Underground blog is seen in this screenshot.

A LaFayette, Ga., blogger known for strongly criticizing local police and officials online says he was intimidated by an officer after his identity was discovered several months ago.

Kristopher Marks said he was questioned at his workplace nearly two months ago after video surveillance showed his vehicle parked at a city building after hours.

Marks said Assistant Police Chief Bengie Clift told him if the local blog the LaFayette Underground stopped writing in depth about the police department, police wouldn't charge him with trespassing.

"He made it clear if that happened the trespassing charge wouldn't go anywhere," he said.

But Clift said he only warned Marks not to go onto city property after hours or he could face trespassing charges.

"You can't go off on [city] property at night snooping around," Clift said.

Identities of writers whose work appears on the LaFayette Underground are kept secret. The blog is known for writing critical posts and sometimes rumors about police, city and Walker County officials.

Clift acknowledged that he talked to Marks about the blog and asked him to give a phone call to any officer being written about.

"I don't have a problem with [the blog] until you start calling people that work for me stupid," Clift said.

The LaFayette Underground wrote several posts last year criticizing police department investigations into multiple arsons across town, accusing police of ignoring the problem. The blog then named a juvenile as the arsonist.

But police later arrested volunteer firefighter Melvin Chase in December 2010 and charged him in connection with several arson incidents over the past five years.

While police said they are frustrated with the blog posts, LaFayette police Chief Tommy Freeman said his department isn't targeting the blog's writers.

"We've got bigger things to worry about than worrying about the LaFayette Underground," Freeman said.

Marks said he is worried that his employer -- Kids 4 Christ, a local Christian nonprofit agency -- could be targeted now that his identity is known.

In a local newspaper article, several county officials said they were disappointed to learn that one of the LaFayette Underground contributors worked for a Christian organization.