Gambit Weekly has filed a consent judgment with Criminal District Court Clerk Kimberly Williamson Butler to settle the newspaper's public-records lawsuit against Butler. The settlement followed a day-long hearing into the matter before Civil District Court Judge Lloyd Medley on April 10.
In the two-page judgment, which the parties negotiated, Medley ordered Butler's office to pay Gambit's attorney's fees of more than $8,100 and to turn over eight items originally requested by Gambit reporter Katy Reckdahl in a November 2004 public-records request.
The clerk's office had denied the existence of one of the contested items, a sign-out log for bank deposits. The log itemized individual bank deposits and showed who took each deposit to the bank. At the April 10 hearing, two former clerk's office employees testified as to the existence of the log. Former clerk's office courier Keith Jones testified that he had signed it hundreds of times during his 10-year tenure in the office.
On April 11, Butler attorney Deborah Wilson produced a blue bound book from Butler's office. There had been some confusion, Wilson said, because the book was never called a 'log.' She emphasized that the book's front cover did not say 'log' but rather 'collections.' Inside the book's covers, however, was material exactly matching Gambit's description of the requested book -- namely, it recorded daily bank deposits and was initialed by the person who had taken each deposit to the bank.
Entries within the book corroborate what several sources had told Reckdahl for Gambit's March 15 cover story, 'The Woman Behind the Curtain.' That is, despite Butler's assertions in the story that bodyguard Mark Lawes was hired mainly to make office bank deposits, Lawes' initials only made it into the log a handful of times, all in 2004 -- on April 5; Sept. 7, 8, 14 and 20; and Dec. 7. Under the consent judgment, the clerk's office was ordered to produce other contested items by Friday, April 22. On Wednesday, April 20, Gambit attorney John Litchfield received a package of documents. At press time, Gambit was verifying that those documents fully complied with Medley's order.