Editor, adviser drop case against alleged newspaper thieves

KENTUCKY — An editor and adviser have complied with a university president’s request to drop charges against three students who allegedly stole approximately 7,000 copies of the Morehead State University student newspaper in October 2005.

Ashley Sorrell, editor in chief of The Trail Blazer, and Joan Atkins, her adviser, had lodged a complaint against students Danielle Brown, Andrea Sharp and Jennie Williams, who were charged with third degree criminal mischief. Sorrell said the students were unhappy with a story the newspaper published in September 2005 about rape and sexual assault in an off-campus house, resulting in newspapers being taken from 31 on-campus and 15 off-campus racks.

The students pleaded not guilty to the charges a month later in Rowan County District Court.

In April 2006, university President Wayne Andrews held a meeting with Department of Communication and Theatre Chairman Bob Willenbrink and Atkins to negotiate a resolution for the charges, but did not allow Sorrell to attend, she said.

Sorrell said the charges were dropped after Andrews said he received word that one of the students had obtained a lawyer.

Sharp, 22, hired a lawyer and threatened to sue the newspaper and the university for invasion of privacy because, unlike the other students, she claimed to have only taken 15 newspapers and recycled them.

“We just didn’t want to deal with a lawsuit,” Sorrell said.

Willenbrink said the negotiation between the university and the newspaper resulted in a “fair resolution.”

“Everybody was okay with it,” Willenbrink said. “But they never fully accept it and that’s the way it is, [it is] an ugly incident.”

Sorrell said she remains frustrated with the situation.

“I just felt like we were backing down after a month of hell with these girls,” Sorrell said. “I didn’t have much of a say when the decision was made to drop charges but I think I should have been at least allowed to sit in the meeting.”

The president required the other two students, Brown, 22, and Williams, 20, to write apology letters and pay the newspaper $300. Sharp was not required to write a letter or pay the fine.

Sorrell said she has not received the letters or payment, but that she has neglected to keep track of the matter.

Atkins and Andrews could not be reached for comment.