NORMAN — A former assistant district attorney recently filed a federal lawsuit against Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn and political advisor Chad Alexander. The lawsuit comes two years after the employee’s termination.
Former Assistant District Attorney David Batton alleges in the lawsuit that he was terminated in an effort to take perceived political heat off of Mashburn. He was an employee with the DA’s office for five years.
Batton identified Alexander in the lawsuit as Mashburn’s political advisor who was hired as a public relations officer, but “was never in the office or had any work duties or provided any public relations work relating to the district attorney’s office,” the document states.
The lawsuit alleges Mashburn and Alexander “devised a scheme to mislead the press and
public to avoid any adverse publicity” after Mashburn received negative press from an article in the Daily Oklahoman regarding the wholesale release of mug shots.
The document states that as far back as 2009, and again later in 2011 Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester did not release booking photos in a wholesale manner as his computer programming system was not set up to accommodate such releases. The sheriff released individual photos on a case by case basis as he deemed important.
With a new jail facility in 2012, public requests were again made for the wholesale mass release of all booking photos of every person arrested each week. While the new system could more readily accommodate the request, the sheriff said it was a man-power issue, according to the petition.
Mashburn would not comment on the lawsuit.
“I’m ethically bound. I can’t comment on pending litigation,” he said Thursday.
Attempts to contact Batton and Sheriff Joe Lester were unsuccessful Thursday.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals then issued its public opinion regarding the release of booking photos, saying that arrested persons had a privacy interest under the Constitution to such booking photos that could be violated by the release from government entities, according to the document.