U.S. Attorney named in lawsuit over radio PSA

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia was named Thursday in a lawsuit over an radio Public Service Announcement (PSA) his office made during the 2020 West Virginia legislative session.

The suit, brought by the West Virginia chapter of Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and targets U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart.

The suit says his office failed to supply information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding the taxpayer dollars spent to produce and market the PSA.

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“One of the most important traits of our republic is allowing the public access to information regarding decisions made by government officials,” said AFPF West Virginia State Director Jason Huffman. “In this instance, we are seeking to learn more about the decision of an unelected federal bureaucrat to spend taxpayer money advocating against state-level policy decision. This information we’re seeking is clearly within the parameters of a FOIA request.”

In the lawsuit, AFPF argues Stuart made the PSA, and his office paid to have it played on the radio, while West Virginia state lawmakers were considering a number of prison and bail reforms during the 2020 legislative session. The PSA’s, according to a press release from Stuart’s office, would start airing on February 17, 2020.

AFPF’s suit characterizes the PSA this way:

“The ad argues that law enforcement is effectively fighting crime but not because we’re hugging the bad guys” and warns bail reform and other social justice initiatives threaten to reverse course. 

It adds “revolving doors from arrests to the street only embolden criminal activity.”

It imagines “there’s only one way to kill a snake, you gotta take the head completely off.”  

The ad concludes with “this is no time to go soft on crime.”  

The narrator identifies himself: “I’m Mike Stuart, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, and I’ll keep fighting for us to keep winning.”  

Ultimately, several of the reforms were later approved by the legislature.

The suit asks the court order the release of the information being requested by AFPF within 20-days of the court’s determination and also wants the U.S. Attorney’s office to pay all legal fees.

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