This post has updates below, including a response from AJC’s Mark Niesse and Coffee County native Stephanie Flagg.

What conclusions should we draw when official explanations for seminal events shift with the wind?

Multiple, highly placed officials in Georgia have changed their stories when pressed on Coffee County breaches. Brad Raffensperger, Gabriel Sterling, and now Coffee County Elections chairman Wendell Stone, all changed their “official line” about the conspiracy to breach election systems in that small, Georgia county in January 2021.

‘It’s been humiliating’: Coffee County official slams lack of transparency in ’21 breach [UPDATED]

Citizens and activists were pushing to “break the dam” during a June Coffee County Board of Elections (BoE) meeting, where a proposal from retired attorney and longtime-Coffee resident Jim Hudson’s proposal for independent investigation was to be considered. But Hudson’s proposal failed (despite earlier promises of support), and the dam held… followed by further attempts to plug leaking water.

Gravity is not an alleged theory…

As Robert Preston reports for DouglasNow, Coffee County board of elections chair Wendell Stone finally, many months later, acknowledged that gravity is real and the breach occurred.

However, the language Stone used in his prepared statement is painfully passive and doesn’t stand up to established facts. The first sentence of his statement (which was, notably, not adopted by the board) calls the intrusions “alleged breaches” (emphasis mine):

“For months now, media sources have reported on a series of alleged breaches election security which took place in the Coffee County Elections Office. Beginning January 7, 2021, individuals were apparently improperly provided access to the election office. Video seems to show that our former election supervisor granted this access to our office. It has been reported that there were at least two more incidents in the month of January. There is video evidence which also suggests that while inside the election office, these individuals were given access to election equipment, software and election data. The video also contains evidence that along with the former election supervisor, a former election board member was present when these events took place. According to media reports, Gabe Sterling of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office referred to some of the individuals who entered the elections office as ‘data collectors,’ and said the data collectors illegally accessed the server and voting machines. He also said, ‘It’s criminal behavior, and that’s why the GBI is involved, and why we can’t get into too much detail at this time.’ Sterling is also reported to have said, ‘What we’re seeing basically is the elections director in Coffee County was the threat vector here that allowed unauthorized access to these individuals.’”

Why is the word “alleged” laughable? Because bad actors have already bragged about fruits of their crimes. In a very good investigatory series, Reuters documents how information pilfered during the intrusion has already been trafficked by Sid Powell operatives. (See the above screencap; Reuters is just one of many outlets that established/repeated events as they happened, to say nothing of multiple depositions and witness statements.)

…and Misty Hampton is not a ‘threat vector’

In my exclusive, follow-up interview with Coffee County resident Jim Hudson (himself a retired attorney trying to force the elections board to adopt that resolution for independent investigation), told me that Misty Hampton was being used as a sacrificial scapegoat by recalcitrant leaders. He said many on the current board were reluctant to even acknowledge the intrusion occurred.

“When I went to the first meeting in May, they would not even concede there was a breach. And that they weren’t going to do any investigating.”

He adds that Misty Hampton wasn’t the lone actor, either.

“When the first breach occurred on January 7, there was a group of people there,” he says. “But there was also a board member that knew what was going on with the other breaches. Not the whole board necessarily, but there was another board member involved. So it’s not just Misty. I doubt that she would’ve undertaken that without the encouragement possibly of others.”
Stephanie Flagg, who penned an open letter to Coffee County officials published exclusively on CrankyYank, told me that she appreciates Hudson’s tenacity in the face of (thus far) unyielding opposition. “I really admire his bravery to demand that county officials fulfill their duty,” she said. “It is very hard to do that in a small community where so many are connected as neighbors, family, through school, work and church. As humans, we are wired to connect and I wonder that he might feel disconnected from lack of support.”
Flagg added that telling the truth about the intrusion should not be so difficult. “It seems a simple request to ask for truth of the 2/25/21 meetings, but yet no answers. And that seems to be making people uncomfortable. I feel compassion for Mr. Hudson and inspired by his bravery. He is retired, yet spending time that could be spent more peacefully, if it were not for county officials hiding information from the public. I am grateful for him.”
AJC’s Mark Niesse matched my (and 11Alive‘s) reporting from a month ago that states Misty Hampton, whose conduct in Coffee County is well-documented, got hired soon after the breach in neighboring Treutlen County. Why did it take Atlanta’s “paper of record” so long to report this Treutlen story? That gap in time is quite fascinating; sources close to the Coffee County story suggest AJC might be anticipating indictments out of Fani Willis’ office and are doing a bit of “cover your ass” reporting. I have no way to verify that speculation other than to say a month is notably long time to wait to cover a development of that magnitude.
Niesse kindly replied to my questions about timing, explaining that life got in the way of his reporting on Treutlen County developments… something to which we can all relate. “I would have liked to have reported last month on the server being seized, but other news obligations took up my reporting time, and then I went out of town,” he said. “Though my story wasn’t as timely as it could have been, I still thought it was newsworthy to report yesterday.”
He added that, like the rest of us, he has no inside scoop of what Fani Willis is planning. “I’ve had no contact with the district attorney’s office, and I don’t have any knowledge about potential indictments beyond what has been made public. It’s certainly possible that events in Coffee County could be included in an indictment.”
Niesse also said Misty Hampton didn’t return his call prior to press time, which at this point feels more like a feature than a bug.

‘It’s peanuts’ by comparison

In his plea to the board last month (see video, above), Jim Hudson recalled a 1998 Coffee County case involving Jackie Bailey that resulted in the largest penalty ever imposed for election-related violations. “How do you reconcile the treatment of that lady with what has gone on here when nothing has been done? her case is all over the Internet too.”
When you compare Jackie Bailey’s case to Coffee County breach in 2021, “it’s peanuts,” says Hudson. “Here, we’ve had nothing but stonewalling. We’re simply asking the board to pass a resolution that will give us an independent counsel to be sure our democratic process is protected.”
Hudson’s proposal did not advance in the committee, and later, Hudson gave another presentation to the County Commissioners (see below) that resulted in no action.
“It’s been rough out here by myself,” he said. “I just have to confess that. And I’ve tried to be as objective and kind as I can. But I don’t know what it’s going to take to move these people. I really don’t. Am I just foolish or is this the most egregious election violation you’ve ever, ever seen? It is for me.” 🔵
Piercing cone of silence in Coffee County” is a CrankyYank original series that will continue as events unfold. If you have any tips our would like to provide additional details, you can share them here.
UPDATE (9 July 2023): In addition to hearing back from AJC’s Mark Niesse, I fired off a list of questions to former Coffee County elections director Misty Hampton in the hopes I can reach her when others have been unable. I framed the questions around what it feels like to be the center of the storm while remaining conspicuously quiet. I hope to shake loose some answers via a phoner, and if successful, will likely break it out in a new story. For now, here’s what I asked her:

Will Pollocksideways is a perpetually cranky New York City escapee based in Midtown Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist, media analyst and author of three books (award-winning Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), and his first children’s book, Gentle with Gertie.

In 2001, Will earned his Masters from The Medill School of Journalism, graduating with highest honors from the magazine sequence. As permanent member of Journalism’s National Honors Society, he’s been active in monitoring, writing and blogging about media and journalism ever since he graduated.

Obsessed with good storytelling and journalistic excellence, Will uses snark, humor and reason to distill dumb shit and make it fun. He’s a seeker/maker of non-consensus news, and helps you cure crankies by finding the nut in every story.

As for-profit media continues to fail us, it’s more important than ever to find reliable sources. Authentic storytelling exists—you just have to look for it. On this blog you’ll get ideas, not ideology. Sass with class. Reporting with rapport. Evidence with a touch of evil. You get the idea.

Support independent authors, writers, artists, journalists and professionals. Buy a book, leave a review, start a discussion. Show solidarity so that we can achieve greater balance and, in the end, learn more.

Did you like this post? Please share it!

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.