For those of you that are not aware of this situation, the watchdog blog is concerning First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, the blogger has been anonymous since he started the blog in August of 2007 and posts about concerns he has within the new administration of his church. I do not attend this church and have not been involved with the blog, however, I did grow up in this church and my parents and many friends are still active members. Another reason I have not commented on the blog. However, watchdog took an interest in the Gilyard situation and has been a poster here, as well as an encourager during my blog. He and his wife have now also become our friends.
First Baptist Church went to a Detective in the Fall of last year citing concerns about the blogger, filed a criminal report stating "an Internet incident with possible criminal overtones"; an investigation was opened on September 29th, 2008. My direct issue is that during this investigation my blog was also "looked into" and a subpoena was requested and subsequently granted. I did not learn of this until recently, early March, I was not notified prior to this. I was shocked, then outraged, then worried about the possible violation of many of you (especially victims and anonymous posters). I made an immediate post on the watchdog blog (March 18th comment) and I then checked my anger and decided to get all of the facts together before stating anything further.
Since this time, I have spoken with Deacon's from First Baptist, I have heard their "side" of the story, I have also spoken with others inside and outside of FBC, I have requested a meeting with Pastor Brunson and those involved (didn't happen), I have spoken with the JSO detectives and those involved, I have reviewed all information from all sources and questioned those things that did not make sense to me, of course I have prayed about it as well. I mapped it all out, verified questionable information, made a timeline....I have extensively researched and done my homework before presenting a response.
Below is what I have learned, verified, and now believe to be the truth as best as I can present it. I certainly could still be wrong and more facts will come I am sure.
I have been assured and also believe that Detective Hinson only looked at my blog from the perspective of ownership and to verify that I was not the watchdog or an alias, that we were not conspiring together in some way - thus he looked at the information on my profile and my IP address and then verified that information with Google/Comcast. Once that was confirmed, I was set aside and no further information was requested or gained. He also promptly closed the investigation into the watchdog after realizing there was nothing criminal or any direct threat to the church. This is what I have been assured of and I have asked some tough questions and also made some accusations regarding my fears and concerns. I have asked extensive questions over the course of this last week and all questions have been answered and some more than once, as I re-questioned some things to clarify. I have not felt they withheld anything and I am shocked that they were as open as they have been, they certainly could have told me they "couldn't comment" and I would have just had to deal with it.
Detective Hinson, in my mind, may have had no choice but to look into this case and I feel he did his job, whether or not the church provided him with credible "concerns/evidence" is another matter and will all come out in the end. I just do not want my readers to be concerned or fearful, and I do not want the finger to be pointed at Detective Hinson as I feel that blame would be inappropriate knowing all that I now know. Trust me, the truth will all come out, much like the Gilyard case, just wait and see.
This statement was released to me today by Sheriff Rutherford:
Thursday, April 22, 2009
I would like to clarify some information that has been reported about a recent Intelligence investigation conducted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, regarding perceived threats against a local religious congregation.
* Our agency is responsible for investigating any perceived threats and possible criminal activity that is reported to us by a citizen. Our detectives routinely share what they learn in the course of the investigation with the victim or complainant.
* Suspects would not be made aware of this information, if it is gathered in an effort to determine if a threshold of criminality exists and none is found. In this case, the case was closed 11/13/08 with no further action by JSO warranted when no criminal conduct or significant threat to the church was determined to exist.
* In this case, the information about suspicious behavior directed at Pastor Mac Brunson and his home and family was provided to a detective whose normal duty assignment with the JSO is to investigate possible threats against Jacksonville’s religious institutions. He is a member of our Intelligence Unit. He would have investigated this situation had the complaint come from those affiliated with a Mosque, a Synagogue, or any religious organization. This is Detective Hinson’s job as the intelligence point person for the religious community, and other designated critical infrastructure sites in Jacksonville.
* All our religious institutions are a major part of Jacksonville’s critical infrastructure and we remain vigilant in investigating all perceived threats and security issues associated with those institutions. In light of recent violent incidents that have occurred in churches around the country, I think our vigilance is necessary and most appropriate to ensure public safety.
Had another officer received a similar threat or tip or raised a similar concern, Detective Hinson would have ultimately been the officer assigned to investigate. I have no issue with his investigation and there is no conflict of interest because he is affiliated with that particular congregation.
* The fact that the medium used to communicate the messages being investigated was the internet is irrelevant. Investigations are conducted into the sources of anonymous letters, phone calls, and in this day and age websites and emails, any time it is deemed appropriate for public safety. We then look at the contents and sources of internet information regularly, as part of our investigations.
* Ms. Croft’s blog was initially reviewed as a preliminary investigative lead due to the fact that the Croft’s blog site was listed on the fbcwatchdog web site and was unknown to the investigator. Once the blog ownership information was verified by the internet provider and matched the information listed on Ms. Croft’s blog site, Detective Hinson determined that there was no investigative value in Ms. Croft’s blog site.
I hope this information helps clarify for citizens that this was not about “outing” a blogger, but instead was about proactively addressing public safety.
John H. Rutherford, Sheriff
Back to the business at hand. Darrell Gilyard's day in court is coming fast, we will cover every bit of the story and keep everyone posted. We are not done yet.