Jackson indicted by grand jury
Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023
UPDATE: The following story was updated to include comments from District Attorney Steve Billy, and to provide clarification on a few details.
An Escambia County (Ala.) Schools board member who was recently re-elected as vice president was arrested Dec. 4 on revealing grand jury information charges, according to court records.
According to an indictment that was returned by the grand jury, Cynthia (Cindy) A. Jackson, 72, of Brewton, has been charged with revealing evidence from the grand jury.
According to the indictment, Jackson allegedly, “did corruptly obtain information pertaining grand jury considerations, evidence or other matters taken or transpiring within or before a grand jury, to-wit: obtained and disclosed information in a grand jury subpoena, in violation of Code of Alabama 12-16-215.
District Attorney Steve Billy said Tuesday the indictments came about after he got some information in late summer about some COVID money issues.
“I was asked to look into it by actually an employee,” Billy said. “We issued the subpoena, and of course we didn’t issue the subpoena until October. That was what. It was just to find out some information.
“When I issued the subpoena, of course, it was issued to an employee of the school board,” he added. “Of course, Ms. Jackson (allegedly) illegally obtained a copy from the school board employee. Then, she had it on her phone, and then she sent it to Sherry Digmon. Of course, she (Digmon) printed it out and published it (in the Atmore News). Of course they misrepresented where they got the copy of the subpoena. That’s where it came from, from Ms. Jackson’s cell phone.”
Two search warrants were executed Oct. 23 on Jackson and Digmon’s cell phones, according to court records. According to the search warrants, which have been made public, Digmon allegedly violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act; and Jackson allegedly violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act and made public statements about grand jury indictments that haven’t yet occurred, which is a violation of Alabama Code 12-16-214(4).
Billy confirmed that the search warrants for Jackson’s cell phone yielded that she allegedly shared the grand jury information with Digmon.
Jackson, who represents District 4 on the board of education, was recently elected to serve as the board’s vice president.
Jackson was booked at 11:49 a.m. Dec. 4, and released at 12:12 p.m. on a $25,000 bond.
This is the third arrest of someone who allegedly revealed grand jury evidence in over a month.
According to Advance archives, Digmon, who is also a member of the board of education, and News Reporter Don Fletcher were arrested Oct. 27 on revealing grand jury evidence charges. Both were formally indicted Dec. 1 by a grand jury, which was recalled.
Billy said in an Oct. 28 interview the arrest of Digmon and Fletcher stemmed from the publishing of an article, which was in the Atmore News, where a subpoena and COVID checks were mentioned, and “even called out some names.”
The article was published in the Wed., Oct. 25, edition of the Atmore News.
“They also mentioned – and I was at the school board meeting on the (Oct.) 12th, and they said I mentioned that (subpoena and COVID checks) at the school board meeting, which is not correct at all,” Billy said in the telephone interview. “I didn’t mention anything about COVID at all. That was just misinformation. They were at the meeting. That was, I think, calculated.”
During the meeting Billy was referring, the district attorney spoke in defense of Superintendent Michele McClung, whose contract was not renewed by the board.
Additionally, Digmon, was arrested on ethics charges on Nov. 1, alleging that Digmon used her position and materials for personal gain.
Billy said the next step for Jackson would that she would come before a court, and be arraigned in front of a judge or either her attorney will file a written waiver of arraignment and file it that way.
“Beyond that, they’ll be starting to exchange discovery and then they’ll be on track for a trial setting,” he said. “At the first of the year, Judge Fuller would dictate that when it would be tried.”
The code by which Jackson was arrested Dec. 4 states: Grand juror, witness, etc., prohibited from revealing, disclosing, etc., a juror’s questions, considerations, etc.; no person to directly, indirectly, etc., by any means obtain information as to juror’s questions, considerations, etc. No past or present grand juror, past or present grand jury witness or grand jury reporter or stenographer shall willfully at any time directly or indirectly, conditionally or unconditionally, by any means whatever, reveal, disclose or divulge or attempt or endeavor to reveal, disclose or divulge or cause to be revealed, disclosed or divulged, any knowledge or information pertaining to any grand juror’s questions, considerations, debates, deliberations, opinions or votes on any case, evidence, or other matter taken within or occurring before any grand jury of this state. Nor shall any person at any time, directly or indirectly, conditionally or unconditionally by any means whatever, corruptly or with intent to influence a grand juror or other person authorized by law to attend a grand jury, or by threat of harm to person or property, or by force applied to person or property, or by threatening letter or communication, or by offer of reward, remuneration, gift, benefit or thing of value of whatever nature or kind, obtain or endeavor to obtain, any information pertaining to, or any knowledge of any grand juror’s questions, considerations, debates, deliberations, opinions or votes on any case, evidence or other matter taken or transpiring within or before any grand jury of this state.