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Ellsworth Photos: Claybourn Issues Sort Of An Apology, Sort Of An Explanation

Claycoatcorner_1Much-maligned blogger Josh Claybourn, who alerted the Evansville Courier & Press to photos of Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth's daughter drinking at IU, attempts to explain his actions in today's paper. Make of it what you will:

"On Feb. 3, the Evansville Courier & Press ran a front-page story that reported public Internet pictures of Sheriff Brad Ellsworth's daughter drinking underage. The original article and subsequent mentions of the incident have strongly implied that I sought out evidence of improprieties committed by Brad Ellsworth or his family. I did not.

"Someone else left the Internet address of the photographs on a Web site I run in a public forum. That is available at www.inthe agora.com/archives/2006/01/ind-ianas_bloody.html.

"I did not seek out dirt in some sort of covert political investigation as was implied. The very public pictures were left as a very public comment by someone else.

"I forwarded the link to the discussion on my Web site to the Courier & Press. As an irregular contributor to the opinion pages, I frequently share columns, information and pieces with the newspaper's staff. Some of it is interesting, some of it is newsworthy, and some of it is neither, but ultimately the value of the information rests with the reporters and editors.

"In this case, the Courier & Press not only decided to run a story on the pictures, but the newspaper's representatives later asked me for help in obtaining other pictures on a section of the popular Web site facebook.com that was available only to other Indiana University students.

"Whether the illegal - and very public - actions of a member of Brad Ellsworth's family are newsworthy is a difficult question. When Courier & Press reporter Thomas Langhorne asked for my take on the issue, I was deliberately cautious. I noted several times that underage drinking is commonplace and nothing new.

"Yet some might see the blatant display of such actions by a member of a sheriff's family as evidence of a double standard; police have used Facebook.com pictures before to identify people involved in committing a crime. Underage drinkers who do get caught - and many do - do not get off lightly.

"The Courier & Press decided not only that this was newsworthy, but also that it merited several days' worth of coverage. I believe far too much has been made of the issue. It should not be a front-page story, and my own opinion, which Langhorne made the focus of the story, is irrelevant.

"Worst of all, the article embarrassed the Ellsworth family. Although I have spoken with Andrea Ellsworth, I would like to publicly apologize to her, to the Ellsworth family and any others for my part in passing along the forum thread to the newspaper.

"I suspect - and hope - that this news will become a footnote. No election, particularly not one of the few competitive House races in the entire United States, should be decided by such a story. And I doubt that anyone's vote will be changed in any event. It is time to move beyond this issue."

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Comments

crow, crow, crow... warm or cold Josh?

What a crock ... what is googling someone's daughter besides "seeking out"! My definition of "very public" must be really different than Josh's because I didn't see them on a billboard, a front page (until Josh so nicely put them there) or or even my computer home page. He went looking, he found it, he jumped on it and it bit him in the ass.

plus, you can't even get to these photos unless you're an IU student, which makes the "public" universe that much smaller...

"police have used Facebook.com pictures before to identify people involved in committing a crime."

Well, police may have used photographs (and not just from Facebook, believe it or not) in identifying people (including, sometimes, those who weren't committing crimes). But the blatant mischaracterization of the "crime" here, something which has remained consistent through the three or four retellings of the story, is a real tell.

Buying, possession, or consumption of alcohol by a minor in the state of Indiana is a misdemeanor. So is owning a vehicle that doesn't have current Indiana license plates. Posting a picture of either is not. You'd imagine a law student would understand the distinction.

I'm not equating underage drinking with traffic violations. But the two are closer in fact than the alleged underage drinking is to the sorts of felonies where a picture might be used to contradict an alibi or identify a person of interest. If Mr. Claybourn knows of a single case where amisdemeanor prosecution was brought over a .jpg he should cite it. The continual misrepresentation of the facts, along with the story changing and buck passing, belie those apologies he keeps offering.

I think, Mr. Claybourn, that it's time for you to consider whether the higher truths you possess justify a lifetime spent jumping up and down in pools of cess. You may come to realize the rest of the world also has a sense of smell.

at least she wasn't smoking a joint.

If she'd been smoking pot, she could be governor of Indiana.

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