Students criminally charged in student newspaper theft

KENTUCKY — Three students were criminally charged Wednesday in the theft of more than 7,000 student newspapers at Morehead State University.

Danielle Brown, 22, Andrea Sharp, 22, and Jennie Williams, 20, were charged with third degree criminal mischief for their alleged involvement in the newspaper theft, according to a university press release.

“The charges stemmed from alleged actions by the defendants who disposed of copies of The Trail Blazer newspaper because they did not want a particular story published,” the statement said.

Staff at the student newspaper said they are happy something is being done about the theft.

“It shows that this is being taken seriously and that it’s not being taken as just a college prank,” said Trail Blazer editor in chief Ashley Sorrell. “We know there are a lot more people involved than just those three, and we want [the campus police] to try and find as many people involved in this as possible.

“There were 7,000 papers stolen, so it was an organized theft.”

The newspapers were taken from 31 on-campus and 15 off-campus newspaper racks.

Sorrell said she believes the papers were stolen by members of fraternities and sororities in reaction to a story in the paper about a sexual assault in an off-campus house.

The maximum penalty for a third degree criminal mischief charge – a class B misdemeanor – is a $250 fine and less than 90 days in jail, said Lt. James Frazier, a detective working the case for the campus police department. The women are scheduled to appear before a judge in a Rowan County court Oct. 18, he said.

Frazier said the investigation is ongoing and that he could not comment any further on the incident.

In a similar case in 1997, a Fayette County prosecutor filed criminal mischief charges against three University of Kentucky students for stealing approximately 11,000 copies of The Kentucky Kernel. The students pleaded guilty and served community service.

Sorrell said she hopes the women get more than a “slap on the wrist” when they appear in court later this month.

The stolen newspapers were reprinted, costing the newspaper $2,000. Sorrell said the story was printed online and that the newspaper has followed up on the story in subsequent issues.

“It’s a form of censorship,” she said. “There was a story run that they didn’t want people to see so they stole the newspaper.”

by Evan Mayor, SPLC staff writer

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