Crime & Courts

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Student, 17, accused in phony Facebook profile

Victim had testified against teacher

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A Lakeside High School student was charged Monday with creating a fake Facebook page that purported to show another student lied during a teacher's dismissal hearing.



Roger Corey Bonsant, 17, of the 700 block of Riverbend Drive in Martinez, surrendered at the Columbia County Sheriff's Office in Appling, said Capt. Steve Morris. Bonsant was released on $1,100 bond.

Earlier in the day, investigators obtained a warrant for a misdemeanor charge of criminal defamation, alleging that Bonsant set up a fake Facebook page "under another person's name and communicated false information which exposed another person to hatred, contempt and/or ridicule," Morris said.

Investigators pursued the charges after the guardian of 16-year-old Avery Hill filed a complaint with the sheriff's office. The complaint said the fake Facebook page, created after Hill testified during a Board of Education dismissal hearing against Lakeside teacher Margaret Mudrak, made it appear Hill had lied during his testimony.

Columbia County School Superintendent Charles Nagle said that because of threats Hill has been allowed to transfer to another high school in the county. He refused to say which school.

Mudrak, a veteran special education teacher and boys lacrosse coach, was fired after Lakeside officials say she helped her students cheat on tests and illegally changed their federally mandated Individual Education Plans.

Investigators believe Bonsant, with the knowledge of other Lakeside students who are now witnesses in the case, created the page to help Mudrak, Morris said.

Morris said investigators tracked the fake Facebook page to Bonsant after subpoenaing information from Facebook, which in turn led them to subpoena information from Hotmail. With that information, along with the statements of witnesses, investigators searched Bonsant's home, seized five personal computers and filed the defamation charge, Morris said.

In addition to charging Bonsant, the investigation exonerated Hill, Morris said.

"He had nothing to do with this. He had no knowledge before, during or after that this was created," Morris said.

Mudrak has appealed her firing, but a State Board of Education spokesman said no action has been taken yet.

"Hopefully, a lot of this can be brought to closure," Nagle said.

The school system has no plans to take any disciplinary action against Bonsant because the alleged offense took place off school property and when school was not in session, Nagle said.

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Dixieman
17411
Points
Dixieman 08/09/10 - 02:07 pm
0
0
I thought juveniles charged

I thought juveniles charged with a crime were not identified in the media?

Ushouldnthave
0
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Ushouldnthave 08/09/10 - 02:20 pm
0
0
17 is an adult in the Georgia

17 is an adult in the Georgia criminal system. What is sad is all of the attention, investigative hours, and expense over a misdemeanor, but the law is the law.

disssman
6
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disssman 08/09/10 - 02:16 pm
0
0
Man what an intensive

Man what an intensive investigatation. I wonder who has a powerful friend?

750
Points
Barry Paschal 08/09/10 - 02:19 pm
0
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"Who has a powerful friend"?

"Who has a powerful friend"? You, dissman, and any other Columbia County resident who is a victim of a crime. The sheriff's office will pursue the investigation no matter who you are. Would you suggest that they do otherwise?

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 08/09/10 - 02:34 pm
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As a former Police Officer in

As a former Police Officer in the CSRA Barry, Yes that is a ton of work for something that is so minor. As far as crimes against persons go that same time could have been spent tracking burglaries, robberies, etc. The severity of this amounts to something like shoplifting gum from a gas station. Would this many man hours have been spent on something like that?

montega12
0
Points
montega12 08/09/10 - 02:37 pm
0
0
are you kidding me this

are you kidding me this little troublemaker gets a teacher canned where was the investigation for this teacher ONE troubled kid said she helped them cheat ONLY ONE and she loses her job a 30 year veteran teacher...and they take up two months or three and how many man hours to track this facebook page down...what a waste of resources......should use some of this zeal on drug dealers

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 08/09/10 - 02:38 pm
0
0
My other question is will

My other question is will they spend this much time and effort to investigate every Cyber-bullying case? They will need about 20 deputies doing nothing but surfing Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and Twitter just to look for bullying cases.

mommabird
0
Points
mommabird 08/09/10 - 03:01 pm
0
0
No matter how small this

No matter how small this seems, it could lead to something more severe later on in his life...nip it in the bud...

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 08/09/10 - 04:01 pm
0
0
AugustaVoter - There was a

AugustaVoter - There was a criminal complaint made. The Sheriff's Office did not go looking for this on their own. But when the complaint was made they investigated like they should with ANY criminal complaint.

Local Interests
40
Points
Local Interests 08/09/10 - 04:02 pm
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Local radio personality

Local radio personality Austin Rhodes had pretty much declared that it was impossible for this to have been a fake page.

I guess he can now only say he is an expert on ALMOST everything.

I think this was time well spent by the local police and the kid should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law - which likely isn't much.

There are cases all over the country where this sort of activity has led to all sorts of unintended consequences, up to and including suicide.

Junket831
0
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Junket831 08/09/10 - 04:26 pm
0
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Good point Local. It will be

Good point Local. It will be interesting to see what AR has to say since he did make that declaration which pretty much indicted Mr. Hill.

If convicted the accused and his family should reimburse the county for the cost of the investigation.

This whole sorry mess however is the direct result of poor management in the Columbia County Schools. With far better leadership this episode could have been avoided.

secretagentman
2
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secretagentman 08/09/10 - 04:50 pm
0
0
I am surprised it was created

I am surprised it was created by another student-- I was with Rhodes on this one-- I cant figure out how the fake page got the same friends etc How it could look exactly like the first boys........ I wish I couldve seen the fake page.... if this kid did it, he went to ALOT of trouble. That is pretty weird. I think Nagle is glad the Sheriff's office pursued it because of all the brouhaha over Mudrak's firing... as if they just fired her maliciously. What no one pointed out much earlier (that is in this article) is that supposedly the teacher changed the IEP without the proper procedure.... that is a serious offense..

follower
92
Points
follower 08/09/10 - 04:51 pm
0
0
As I posted when this was

As I posted when this was reported the first time, with many saying it's a waste of resources to pursue the case, if it was your child that had been framed and subsequently threatened, would you think it was minor?

This could have escalated into something far worse, and then the Monday morning quarterbacks would be questioning why the sherrif's department hadn't done something.

It equates to identity theft. They did the right thing, and the little weasel [if guilty] has his name in the paper.

baronvonreich
1
Points
baronvonreich 08/09/10 - 06:35 pm
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0
lol at ol' Barry the naive.

lol at ol' Barry the naive.

Little Lamb
49093
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Little Lamb 08/09/10 - 06:45 pm
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CC News-Times wrote: Mudrak

CC News-Times wrote:

Mudrak was fired after school officials say she . . . illegally changed their federally mandated Individual Education Plans.

I don't believe that unilaterally changing an Individual Education Plan is a crime, in that you cannot lose your civil liberties. Nonetheless, it is a violation of rules and procedures; and you can be disciplined up to and including discharge.

read between the lines
0
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read between the lines 08/09/10 - 06:51 pm
0
0
"Bonsant set up a fake

"Bonsant set up a fake Facebook page "under another person's name and communicated false information which exposed another person to hatred, contempt and/or ridicule," Morris said."
---The page was up for 15 hours AT MOST before it was taken down; i doubt Avery Hill was threatened because of the page since it was up from apprx 9pm-12pm. I also doubt it because the FIRST article that came about from this fiasco said that it was a fake, and obviously a joke. The later articles took comments out of context and focused on the ONE out of maybe EIGHT status'. There were plenty of students who were irritated about the outcome of Mudrak's case, and probably threatened him because of their own personal opinions.

They SHOULD have spent less time investigating the page (which also is blown up by the media, they really didn't do that much), and investigating those WHO threatened Hill.

Little Lamb
49093
Points
Little Lamb 08/09/10 - 06:50 pm
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0
Grouse wrote: This really

Grouse wrote:

This really doesn't seem like a criminal thing to me, more of a civil suit for libel.

On the other hand, we learn from the article above that what Bonsant is accused of is a crime. Specifically, it is a “a misdemeanor charge of criminal defamation.”

Austin Rhodes
2989
Points
Austin Rhodes 08/09/10 - 07:49 pm
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Local Interests and

Local Interests and Junket,

Not sure what radio show you were listening to, but it wasn't mine if you heard the host say that it was "impossible" for it to be a fake page. Here is my column that ran on the subject, 2 months ago...oh...and I have explained in detail why this Bonsant kid has to be prosecuted and why the case had to be followed...two weeks ago on the air.

Austin Rhodes - Metro Spirit Column
6-15-2010

AND TO THINK HE RUNS A SCHOOL SYSTEM

I have no idea whether Margaret Mudrak orchestrated an act of cheating worthy of ending a career in education lasting almost 30 years, but some of the folks who put together the case to take her down deserve to be given the same treatment.

The veteran Lakeside High School special education teacher was fired last week after one of the longest termination hearings in recent memory. The four attending members of the Columbia County Board of Education voted unanimously to support the contentions of her principal, Jeff Carney, and Superintendent Chales Nagle, that Mudrak was guilty of assisting several special education students in cheating on a math test.

Mudrak is an incredibly popular and hardworking teacher. She has years of very positive, in fact glowing, teaching evaluations. As the school’s lacrosse coach, she has earned the undying loyalty of dozens of parents who recognize that as their children play a nontraditional sport, the dedicated involvement of a member of the faculty is a must for the program to continue.

In over two decades of covering and discussing our local school system, I have never seen an academic teacher supported by parents and students in the midst of such a controversy, in the way this lady has been.

But as my astute colleague Barry Paschal pointed out, the number of Charles Walker’s supporters on the steps of the Federal Courthouse did not make him innocent.

Mudrak’s attorneys (and she has two of Augusta’s best in Freddie Sanders and Ziva Bruckner) maintain she was railroaded, set up by people (specifically Carney and a few teachers) who didn’t like her, and they intend to appeal the decision to the Georgia State Board of Education.

But in one of the most bizarre twists to ever develop in such a case, Mudrak’s fate has taken a backseat to the tactics and “CYA” attitude of CCBOE officials that has become legend in recent years.

Somewhere along the line, the people who were in such a frenzy to get rid of Mudrak decided to put a few students on the stand to offer testimony. That decision was one of the worst premeditated errors in judgement we have ever seen in local government.

The student who seemed to offer the most serious anti-Mudrak testimony was 16 year old Avery Hill. (By the way, this young man is identified by name only because of his role in a publicly held hearing.) Hill’s testimony was damning, and the ONLY testimony that seemed to offer direct evidence of the cheating allegations.

Hill’s involvement in the matter became even more important when a Facebook page bearing his name and picture proclaimed celebration of the firing the day after the hearing stating, “I EVEN LIED TO PROCEED THE PROCESS OF HER TERMINATION.”

The Facebook page was filled with volatile and profane rants, directed at minorities, fellow students, and others. If it was genuine, it seemed to indicate the musings of a severely troubled young man.

At the time I saw the page in question, Hill (or someone posing as Hill) had collected close to 100 Facebook friends, and the only reason I was able to see the full contents of the entry was that we had ONE friend in common. (In Facebook talk, that can mean access, depending on individual security settings)

Because of the serious implications of the statements, and the fact that those statements generated genuine threats from other students in retaliation, the Facebook page became quite the topic, and brought into focus the decision to use Hill in the Mudrak case.

To say Hill has a troubling school discipline record would be an understatement. The student has a collection of citations that would seem to indicate a very serious pattern of misbehavior that at the very least would indict his credibility in the mind of any rational adult. Why in the world would CCBOE officials put such a student in the midst of such an important proceeding with a veteran teacher’s reputation and future hanging in the balance?

First of all, the people who called him as a witness made no effort to disclose his background or behavior issues. Why would they? Unless the gathered trustees were complete morons (and they were not) there is no way they could consider the 16 year old a credible and rational witness. That Mudrak’s attorney did not eviscerate the kid on the stand is a testament to HER professionalism as a teacher. She could have used her knowledge of his record against him during cross examination, but her team took the high road instead.

Second, with such a highly emotional case, how could officials not predict that Hill’s record would eventually become an issue? The room was FILLED with Mudrak supporters, many of whom were students. To not fear any fallout from calling Hill as an antagonistic witness is pure sophistry.

Superintendent Charles Nagle is ultimately responsible for that move, and to be frank, it is indefensible.

Hill and his guardians deny that he is responsible for the inflamatory Facebook page, and it has since vanished. Nagle and his team vehemently defend Hill and have claimed he was “set up”. An investigation is underway to prove that.

But no investigation is needed to determine who put a troubled student in the midst of an adult controversy. Avery Hill has declared “special needs”. What is Charles Nagle’s excuse?

Austin Rhodes
2989
Points
Austin Rhodes 08/09/10 - 07:55 pm
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0
The only claim of

The only claim of "impossible" I made, was that the Super and his computer guy were out to lunch when they glanced over Hill's computer and proclaimed there was no way he was responsible for the page. It was IMPOSSIBLE for them to know that for sure UNLESS they did exactly what the CCSD did, and that was a forensic trace of computer activity with the subpoenaed assistance of Facebook and Hotmail.

jff
0
Points
jff 08/09/10 - 08:13 pm
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0
charles nagle should be

charles nagle should be removed , he doees not stand behind his teachers. and the teacher should sue this little punks family,and the school board. and who is this punks lawyer.

read between the lines
0
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read between the lines 08/09/10 - 08:18 pm
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0
The status wasn't exactly

The status wasn't exactly written like that, it was more obvious that it was a joke, and somehow the radio, news, and police want to go off of out of context quotes instead of looking at the page as a whole. Almost every one of the comments made the facebook PAINFULLY OBVIOUS that this was just a prank. Anyone who was fooled was just plain ignorant and stubborn.

Little Lamb
49093
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Little Lamb 08/09/10 - 08:44 pm
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0
JFF wrote: Charles Nagle

JFF wrote:

Charles Nagle should be removed. He does not stand behind his teachers.

Thank goodness he did not stand behind a teacher who modified one or more special education students' IEPs in violation of the rules and procedures. She has to go, or the whole special education program in Columbia County would be suspect.

Little Lamb
49093
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Little Lamb 08/09/10 - 08:49 pm
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0
Read Between the Lines

Read Between the Lines wrote:

Almost every one of the comments made it PAINFULLY OBVIOUS that the fake Facebook page was just a prank. Anyone who was fooled was just plain ignorant and stubborn.

You can get away with pranks sometimes when you do things verbally. But when you leave evidence, you can get burned. To pull a prank that makes a fellow student appear that he lied under oath in a personnel hearing that led to a teacher's dismissal was stupid, stupid, stupid — to quote John Grisham in The Rainmaker. I say it was Bonsant who was ignorant and stubborn, not to mention vindictive and cruel.

shamrock
585
Points
shamrock 08/09/10 - 09:48 pm
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0
WOW ... that ignore feature

WOW ... that ignore feature works great to lessen the heartburn of scrolling through lines and lines of garbage from someone who believes they should post some rambling diatribe that no one really cares about. Works something like the on/off switch on my AM radio between 3pm to 6 pm!

read between the lines
0
Points
read between the lines 08/09/10 - 10:54 pm
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Little Lamb.../// That was

Little Lamb...///

That was ONE status that was taken out of context. If you think that lady doesn't deserve an appeal and should lose her job then you're stubborn. Think about this,....What if Ms. Mudrak (a veteran teacher) didn't help her students? What if Hill was vindictive and cruel and just didn't like her, so he testified against her in a hearing that was brought on simply because the CCBOE wanted to let her go? And because of ONE student's testimony against others they're going to take her job so that she can't teach again. Maybe Bonsant was [filtered word] off about that so he did the page out of spite (not the best idea, but it's not worthy of all this.) Then the head of the CCBOE didn't like that the matter got newstime because of Bonsant's facebook, so they pushed the Hill's to press charges. Then the CCBOE encourages the Police Depmartment to wrongfully pursue it. If that's NOT the case then why put so much effort?

read between the lines
0
Points
read between the lines 08/10/10 - 12:05 am
0
0
Roger Bonsant is not a bad

Roger Bonsant is not a bad kid. He is a nice kid, who doesn't deserve to be treated like this by Columbia County. The media is making him out to be a criminal, when all he's done was something that 99.9% of people do. The page was just a mock; something to aggrevate or annoy Hill. It's as if someone were to roll their eyes or mimick a person that they didn't like. We might as well just not interact with eachother because there's bound to be people that irritate us.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 08/10/10 - 12:17 am
0
0
While I applaud the efforts

While I applaud the efforts of any law enforcement officer or department to follow through on a case, the efforts, energy, warrants, requests, man hours, etc. put forth on this issue far exceeds that of any shoplifting indicent, most buglaries, and even many drug cases. This certainly is considered by many (including deputies) as a waste of law enforcement manpower. Additionally, it is very obvious this was not the simple efforts of an officer being assigned a case and following up on his/her own as any officer would per standard protocal. While most citizens are treated fairly and the Sheriff certainly does care about his community, etc. there was much more at play in this case than deputies simply doing their job.

fatboyhog
2104
Points
fatboyhog 08/10/10 - 06:00 am
0
0
I recall AR saying that it

I recall AR saying that it was impossible for the school system to say that the page was fake by looking at the last time Hill logged in. All the misconception about the statement could be avoided if he kept recordings of his show. Wonder why he doesn't? (Maybe it's because he doesn't want proof of some of the wrong or ignorant things that he says on air)

Farfromhome
0
Points
Farfromhome 08/10/10 - 06:00 am
0
0
Little lamb, modifying an IEP

Little lamb, modifying an IEP without convening a full IEP team is not just a violation of "rules and procedures". An IEP is madated under IDEIA 2004 or PL (public law) 94-142, which is a federal mandate that is enforced by the states. It is education law, thus not following it is illegal. IF Ms. Mudrak changed an IEP without an IEP meeting it would amount to her breaking the law and she should lose her job.

Austin Rhodes
2989
Points
Austin Rhodes 08/10/10 - 06:15 am
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0
The show IS recorded...and it

The show IS recorded...and it has been for several years now. Give me a specific time when this supposed declaration was made, and I will be happy to look it up for you. As it is I am not going through hours and hours of recorded material to prove something I already know to be true.

If I had said ANYTHING close to what those posters claimed, you would see a lot more than one or two people making vague references about it.

The Metro Spirit piece covered just about everything I said on the air from two months ago...that was why I posted it.

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