Identity revealed in best interest of public

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Correction, Oct. 16, 2008: A phrase was added to this column for clarification. (Highlight changes)

The newspaper has done something unusual today in disclosing information about a user of our Web site.

In the article on Page 1B, we disclose that online comments supporting demoted Investigator Richard Roundtree are linked to an account with his name, birthdate, work e-mail and work address.

Although the newspaper does not require viewers of the Web site to register, we do require such information for a user to be a contributor -- someone who posts photos or comments or participates in other interactive features.

We feel the public has a right to know that the comments praising Investigator Roundtree are linked to his account. We expect honesty and integrity from our public safety officers. We feel the strong possibility that a law enforcement officer could have misrepresented himself and posed as the mother of a murder victim to garner public support is a matter of public interest.

As Online Director Jonathan Dozier points out, it is possible for someone other than the registered user to access an account.

To be a user of AugustaChronicle.com, members agree to accept responsibility for all activities that occur under their account or password. Users are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of their passwords and for restricting access to their computer.

The Terms of Service that users agree to state that we may disclose user information in response to a court order, and/or whenever we deem it appropriate or necessary to give such information to law enforcement authorities.

Reporter Adam Folk took the online comments to Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength this week.

As part of the reporting on this article, we learned that another public official, Judge Duncan Wheale, has posted an online comment in support of the three-year sentence he gave to a former deputy jailer for the sheriff's office who behaved inappropriately toward an inmate.

"I work in law enforcement," read the July 23 post that provided detail on the evidence against Joseph K. Smalls. The posting bore the judge's display name -- slimjim.

"I did publish that, and it was accurate. It was supported by the transcript," the judge said Thursday. An employee of The Augusta Chronicle 's online staff removed the post because it contained information regarding criminal conduct that was not included in The Chronicle 's article about the case.

This is the only posting the judge has ever made to our Web site.

To protect users' safety, our online Privacy Policy states that we do not allow users to divulge personal phone numbers, addresses or other information that can be used to identify or locate them.

The Chronicle does not monitor all online comments, but we do review a portion of them daily to check for content that might be considered vulgar, profane, abusive, racist or otherwise inappropriate. We reserve the right to remove such comments and offer an alert option on every page so users can bring objectionable content to our attention. The comments linked to Investigator Roundtree's account were noticed during such a routine check.

On the Web, users can portray themselves however they choose. Though some disclose their true identities on the Internet, via their full names or photographs -- most do not. To do so is a security risk, and law enforcement advises against it.

Anonymity is part of the culture of online use.

We do not wish to erode our online users' trust in us to keep their information private. These were unprecedented circumstances.

Reach Elizabeth Adams at (706) 823-3348 or elizabeth.adams@augustachronicle.com.

See the comments that were posted online


TIMELINE

"Gratefulmother" began posting on The AugustaChronicle Web site on June 3 under a story about Investigator Richard Roundtree's involvement with Dad's in Action, a group that provides male mentoring for area middle-school students. "Gratefulmother" has posted 24 comments over the past four months.. The majority of the entries regard Investigator Roundtree and are comments on stories about an ongoing investigation into the files of seven murder cases left in his former apartment. Shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, the display name on the account was changed to (?). To read the posts, go to augustachronicle.com/metro

SUSPICIOUS POSTINGS


"Gratefulmother" began posting on The Chronicle's Web site June 3 under a story about Investigator Richard Roundtree's involvement with Dads in Action, a group that provides male mentoring for area middle school pupils. "Gratefulmother" has posted 24 comments over the past four months. The majority of the entries regard Investigator Roundtree and are comments on stories about an ongoing investigation into the files of seven murder cases left in his former apartment. Shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, the display name on the account was changed to (?).

Comments (57) Add comment
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Riverman1
93615
Points
Riverman1 10/10/08 - 04:08 am
0
0
Two issues here. Roundtree

Two issues here. Roundtree needs to go as I've said before. Still the moral of this is that you should use a phony name when registering for the Chronicle online if your identity can be compromised and you may end up in print. Also, remember as could be the case with Duncan Wheale, many of us leave our computers on in our work places and let others use it to read the Chronicle and what have you. I'm really not surprised the Chronicle does not keep information private, however. Although I don't try to make like I'm someone else or what have you, I'll never trust you with my information again.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 10/10/08 - 04:13 am
0
0
Anonymity is part of the

Anonymity is part of the culture of online use...except for Roundtree and Wheale? I'm still confused about why these posts were mentioned. While we expect accuracy in the articles and editorials of the paper, often times information is false in the posts. Tricks are pulled on the readers by people who post under multiple names and sarcasm is often used to make a point. If Roundtree and Wheale wish to post to support their positions on a subject, shouldn't they be allowed to? Is there some kind of vendetta involved with this move?

luv2scrapbk
0
Points
luv2scrapbk 10/10/08 - 04:30 am
0
0
PT...yes. If he/they wanted

PT...yes. If he/they wanted to post comments as such to make a certain point to support their positions, it should be allowable. But, in Roundtree's case, I give you quid pro quo (question for a question). Was this ruse the best manner (if he actually did post these comments) for him to go about garnering support? I believe that the Sheriff's Department stated (correct me if I am wrong) that their rules concerning this oversight on Roundtree's part are clear, did they not? In Wheele's case, why does he need to justify a ruling in a forum such as the Augusta Chronicle reader comments? Isn't that the kind of thing that should be left to the appellette courts?

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 10/10/08 - 05:21 am
0
0
Again, why even bring these

Again, why even bring these posts up. They're just comments on the news blog. What's the point trying to be made?

luv2scrapbk
0
Points
luv2scrapbk 10/10/08 - 05:40 am
0
0
Obviously,I do not work for

Obviously,I do not work for the Chronicle, so I do not attempt to speak for them. Let's assume for a second that he is "Grandmother" and he actually did the posting. Postings such as these, offered under a psuedonym (nothing unusual considering its the internet) tied to his email account give off the appearance he is making up stuff, posting it here in an effort to garner support for his reinstatement. Would Sheriff Strength have caved into pressure from the masses and reinstated him? Doubtful. Patricia, I only offer this as one possible perspective. Yes, they are only posts in an internet blog of sorts. But why post something like that? Have a great day.

NEone
6
Points
NEone 10/10/08 - 05:44 am
0
0
Patricia: The point is

Patricia: The point is Roundtree's integrity (or lack of). If he runs for sheriff, don't you want to know this kind of behavior?

Fiat_Lux
16422
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/10/08 - 06:01 am
0
0
So what if Roundtree posts

So what if Roundtree posts comments in praise of himself, pseudoname or not? His character was already in question based on things he did completely unrelated to his annonymous postings. The AC just had to insert themselves into this kind of thing for reasons that don't, in fact, serve the public interest in either case of violating their own agreements. The truth about annonymity is that there really isn't any. Your ISP number locates you no matter what aliases and false identity info you give to the Augusta Carbuncle. This is just sleaze under the self-righteous guise of responsible journalism. Utter and laughable BS.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 10/10/08 - 06:02 am
0
0
Kind of reminds me of the

Kind of reminds me of the many posts by the "Augusta Chronicle Staff". Isn;t it funny how they hide behind a phony name and then blame someone else for doing the same thing. You know and I know a group of people can't type on the keyboard at the same time.

brown
0
Points
brown 10/10/08 - 06:11 am
0
0
The Augusta Chronicle has

The Augusta Chronicle has sunk to a new low.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 10/10/08 - 06:27 am
0
0
NEone, I think Fiat Lux

NEone, I think Fiat Lux answered your post and I agree.

TruthJusticeFaithHope
244
Points
TruthJusticeFaithHope 10/10/08 - 06:44 am
0
0
This is a new low, brown.

This is a new low, brown. So, lets just put everyone's reall identity on the posts. But, that would reduce the entertainment value. Almost anything posted can be tracked down and the author determined... no matter how much effort was put into diguising the name, registration information, remote e-mail, etc. So, be true to yourselves when you write the words and hit enter......

Edward1968
624
Points
Edward1968 10/10/08 - 07:26 am
0
0
At 05:13 Patriciathomas still

At 05:13 Patriciathomas still had not had her coffee!

rufus
2
Points
rufus 10/10/08 - 07:39 am
0
0
It's just down right odd that

It's just down right odd that a judge would defend himself in this forum. There was a loose screw on the keyboard.

getalife
4
Points
getalife 10/10/08 - 08:21 am
0
0
I see nothing wrong with

I see nothing wrong with either Roundtree or the judge posting their opinion. These are just comments, not a court proceedings!!

think08
0
Points
think08 10/10/08 - 08:26 am
0
0
It might not have been him

It might not have been him but they're just letting us know that it could have been. I definately do not believe it was a "Gratefulmother". Some of you repeat commenters always have the same thing to say about the Augusta Chronicle. You agree to dissagree. If you oppose the AC so much and the way they print it up...stop reading it! I think they do a good job. I'm glad they wanted to let us know that someone was trying to play with our emotions or deceivingly get sympathy from us. Thanks AC for letting ME know. (and no I don't work for them or know anyone who does)

rufus
2
Points
rufus 10/10/08 - 08:33 am
0
0
They have every right to

They have every right to post. Men in their positions should have the professionalism to stay above the fray

CSRAresident
1
Points
CSRAresident 10/10/08 - 08:51 am
0
0
I am more concerned about

I am more concerned about Judge Duncan Wheale making a post about himself rather than Roundtree. A judge is held to a higher standard than most everyone else. I find this troubleing.

Bubba
152
Points
Bubba 10/10/08 - 08:59 am
0
0
Think08 must work for the

Think08 must work for the Chronicle, posting that positive comment about it!!! Let's out him/her. This will hopefully be nearly my last comment. I seldom post unless someone really gets my goat out there, I do enjoy reading you bozos comments though. Since I can't do that anymore with the anonymity that I think is vital, I guess I'd just as well stop reading and posting. One time, someone with one of these accounts posted a comment on a "SPOTTED" picture of me and my family saying some really hurtful things about our size. The Chronicle wouldn't give me any info about him. I lost 85 pounds since then. I'm still ticked off at him. You glean things here. I'm pretty sure that Patricia Thomas is a guy and I think I know where he works too, but we won't go there. Maybe I should have gone to Quantico, like an investigator, I get tidbits of news and put the pieces together. Just like SGTHARRISBURG is the thinest vieled non de plume for Butchie Palmer. If I can stop reading these, then I can spare myself the unpleasantness of his constant self-aggrandization and pounding of a sweet Christian woman. HONKONG is stupid. Butch, get a spellchecker for your webpage. There, my last opinion.

Marco
0
Points
Marco 10/10/08 - 09:15 am
0
0
If the postings are from the

If the postings are from the detective I am proud of the newspaper for making this public. If the shoe was on the other foot, the police would make the newspaper divulge someone's account (With a judge's warrant). I see the Augusta Chronicle as the only honest party of the group, a new high for journalism. The old but justified statement, "a hit dog will holler." comes to mind with anyone who is against the actions of the paper. The paper owns the site, the lines to make a post, and they could be sued for false information posted in their paper. They have right's and they used them, and I hope to see more courage from them. They have my vote of confidence.

WAG
287
Points
WAG 10/10/08 - 09:15 am
0
0
Don't any of you get it????

Don't any of you get it???? He has no integrity. He was posing to be a murder victims mother...Don't any of you find this troubling???? If he wanted to say something he should have done it honestly.....As I said before he got caught doing sloppy work. Let it go....How do you leave the things he did in an apt that he no longer lives in..This is important material.... I just do not get it. I would have gotten fired....He needs to move on....

reddog
2
Points
reddog 10/10/08 - 09:20 am
0
0
Well, that let's all of us

Well, that let's all of us kniow how confidential these postings are! This will definitely be my last posting--I knew AC was a piece of trash--but is sheer trash!!

Tim Walters
1
Points
Tim Walters 10/10/08 - 09:20 am
0
0
Rufus ther are several loose

Rufus ther are several loose screws in Augusta Judges an lawyers. There hav been several deals that these Judges Cannot explain why they acted so Stupid

hoser123
0
Points
hoser123 10/10/08 - 09:24 am
0
0
I'm a former deputy with RCSO

I'm a former deputy with RCSO who cares.

change display name
0
Points
change display name 10/10/08 - 09:37 am
0
0
No more posting for

No more posting for me...wouldn't want to be "outed" for being a county employee. Why don't they just list everybody's info. in a special section of the Sunday paper so everyone with an opinion can be investigated?

KingJames
11
Points
KingJames 10/10/08 - 09:39 am
0
0
Just one question for the

Just one question for the Elizabeth Adams...What made reporter Adam Folk decide to investigate reader comments about Roundtree anyway? No matter how you look at it, and especially with the terms of services that you all know most of us didn't read but accepted anyway, the AC is now telling us that it will expose any one or even all commentors at it's discretion for whatever reason it decides. This is all about privacy to me, and not about Roundtree. The Roundtree story is petty and juvenile in comparision to the exposure of a commentor who shares his opinion about a story.

think08
0
Points
think08 10/10/08 - 09:44 am
0
0
Bubba, I said I didn't work

Bubba, I said I didn't work for them and and didn't know anyone who did. I'm a stay at home MOM who enjoys reading the AC. I don't even live in Augusta anymore but I did grow up there and have family and friends there and like to keep up with whats going on. They can out me all they want I have nothing to hide. Why don't you out yourself, Bubba? Your comment is nothing but rambling from a person having a bad day. Hopefully the rest of your day will get better. Have a blessed day. Bubba!

Bubba
152
Points
Bubba 10/10/08 - 10:16 am
0
0
Think08- Just being facetious

Think08- Just being facetious there about you & the Chronicle. If we had to ID ourselves I'd be fine with that or not register. I know that 1's and 0's are forever, but there's a presumption of anonymity here. Your original post didn't have the disclaimer at the end of it when I first saw it. Did you edit your post to add that? If so, it seems you were suddenly thinking the same thing as I: "People will think I work for the Chronicle." I do know people who work there and I give one of them in particular no small level of pain for the stupid they do occasionally participate in. I think the paper overstepped when they outed Wheale & Roundtree. I am no defender of Tree's by any means, but part of the fun of this forum is that people can get on here and say almost anything, short of racially or otherwise off the chart offensive. Since you can't see my wry smirk in the written word you may have misunderstood. I am having a blessed day, playing a matching cards game w/ my 3 year old Granddaughter. You seem to be as spun up as you think I am though. Posting doesn't mean I am bummed. It is just a forum. As a Christian, I apologize for offending and hope you to are Blessed today. Cheers

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 10/10/08 - 11:04 am
0
0
Disturbing article to say the

Disturbing article to say the least!!!!!!!

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 10/10/08 - 11:15 am
0
0
I agree TakeAstand. I won't

I agree TakeAstand. I won't repeat my other post on the related article, since I see there are plenty of people who have posted the same opinion on here already. I'm really disappointed in the chronicle. Hi Bubba, hope you and 08 have a blessed day, too.

chey
2
Points
chey 10/10/08 - 11:27 am
0
0
I posted on the other article

I posted on the other article and I'll go ahead and post on this one too. I can't see the point. If someone posted something that said they murdered someone , or something to that affect, then by all means... out them. Please. But "gratefulmother" was only posting things taking up for Roundtree. There was no reason to out that.

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