Thursday, September 14, 2017

Missouri blogger Randy Turner gets punched in the face by a man apparently upset about reporting on sexual-harassment lawsuit involving Sonic Drive-In

Randy Turner
(From The Turner Report)
A Missouri blogger heard a knock on his door Monday afternoon and answered, only to be greeted by a stranger who punched him in the face.

Randy Turner, who publishes Joplin-based The Turner Report, reportedly told police he thought the assault was related to his recent reporting on a sexual-harassment lawsuit involving a former supervisor at a Sonic Drive-In.  The Joplin Police Department yesterday afternoon issued an arrest warrant for Christopher Alred, 31, of Springfield, MO., the former Sonic supervisor who is a defendant in the federal lawsuit.

The punch knocked Turner to the ground, causing a knee injury and black eye, according to a report at the Springfield News-Leader. Turner said in a blog post that he expects to be fine. But the incident is another example of the dangers that can confront bloggers who tackle sensitive subjects -- a topic we know a lot about. From the Springfield newspaper report:

[Turner] said he feels fortunate that Monday's incident was not worse.

"This guy took a punch at me because I stupidly opened the door without looking through the peephole," Turner said.

Turner said he will now be more cautious when opening his door, but he said the assault will not deter him from reporting on controversial topics. He said he has been a reporter for the last 40 years and has operated his blog since 2003.

What events preceded the assault? Here is how Turner describes it in a post yesterday:

Alred, who formerly worked as a supervisor at the Rangeline Sonic, 1101 S. Range Line, was the subject of Turner Report posts Sunday and Monday noting that he was one of the defendants in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former Sonic carhop, that he was facing charges of statutory sodomy for a forced encounter with that same carhop, and that he was charged August 27 with his sixth DWI when the Sarcoxie Police Department arrested him for allegedly driving drunk while his eight-year-old daughter was in the back seat.

Turner's reporting on the federal lawsuit against Sonic and others began with a Sunday post, titled "Explosive lawsuit claim: Pervasive sexual harassment at Rangeline Sonic led to two rapes of underage girls." The headline was an attention-grabber, and so was the content:

A lawsuit filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri this week claims management at Rangeline Sonic, Joplin failed to do anything about a culture of sexual harassment and that inaction led to the rape of two underage girls by a 30-year-old supervisor.

The supervisor, Chris Alred, a former Joplin resident, who now lives in Springfield, is facing felony statutory sodomy charges in Jasper County Circuit Court in connection with his actions toward the plaintiff in the lawsuit, who was only 16 when the crime allegedly occurred.

According to the petition, the teenager began working at the Sonic at 1101 S. Range Line in late spring 2015 and heard "various sexual jokes made between managers and staff, including minors."

It was not long before she became the target of sexual jokes, the lawsuit says, and was referred to as "a slut" because she had been involved in a relationship at one time with another car hop.

The second lawsuit-related post came on Monday, titled "Sonic supervisor cited in sexual harassment lawsuit cited for sixth DWI." From that post:

A former Joplin Rangeline Sonic manager charged with statutory sodomy for allegedly forcing a teenage carhop to perform a sexual act is free after posting bond, but that may change.

Chris Alred
(From The Turner Report)
 The Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney is asking that the bond of Christopher Alred, 31, Springfield, (formerly of Joplin and Carthage) be revoked after the Sarcoxie Police Department arrested Alred August 27 for driving while intoxicated. . . .

A primary reason for revoking the bond, it is made clear in the motion is Alred's long history of driving while intoxicated.

The probable cause statement for Alred's most recent arrest, shows that he has pleaded guilty to DWI charges five times, along with another guilty plea to amended excessive blood alcohol content.

Do we live in an age where writing a blog post, based on public records, is a threat to your safety? This is from another Turner post:

When I opened the door and the man asked, "Are you Mr. Turner?" and I said I was, bringing on the punch that floored me, it was not just an aging blogger who was attacked -- it was the First Amendment.

The man waited until he had it confirmed that the person looking at him was the person who had written the post or posts that did not meet with his approval. (Note: Police do have a specific suspect.) Then he attacked. . . .

Randy Turner being attacked is no big deal. Someone being attacked for reporting the facts is. And please, let's drop the negative commenters' self-serving claims that I am writing a bunch of lies. In posts like the ones that brought on the assault, every item in them comes directly from public records.

There is a reason why these records are public, even though sometimes they make us uncomfortable.

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