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Ozark citizen cleared of harassment charge against mayor

Daleville Judge Barbara Wade ruled that Blankenship failed to establish evidence that any harassment took place.

Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship
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The ongoing feud between Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship and resident Bryant Fontenot developed Wednesday with Fontenot being acquitted of harassing Blankenship.

The charges stem from a confrontation between Fontenot and Blankenship following a recent city council meeting.

Daleville Judge Barbara Wade ruled Wednesday that Blankenship had failed to establish prima facie evidence that any harassment had taken place.

“In the court’s examination, it appears the Complainant has not provided evidence with regard to the Defendant’s intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person,” Wade said in the ruling. 

Wade said witness testimony establishes that Fontenot followed Blankenship to his car “with a fast/determined pace,” but only in order to speak with Blankenship. Further witness testimony, including Blankenship himself, confirmed Fontenot used no obscene language or gestures.

The overall feud began when Fontenot criticized Blankenship for threatening to sue resident Adam Kamerer due to releasing the mayor’s text messages with library board members and staff, which are considered public writings under the Alabama Open Records Act. 

After some back and forth between the two, Blankenship ultimately revealed a separate group of text between Fontenot and a local business owner in an attempt to cast Fontenot in a negative light, displaying the texts on city letterhead. This action led to a vote by the council to censure Blankenship.

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The feud ultimately led to the harassment charges being filed by Blankenship in January after the two exchanged words outside city hall.

The ruling further suggests that Blankenship may have made “material misstatements of fact” while on the stand.

Fontenot told APR he provided the court with bodycam footage from officers on the scene that show Blankenship actually following behind Fontenot after Fontenot begins to walk away from Blankenship’s vehicle.

But Fontenot said Blankenship testified that he had not followed Fontenot, and instead driven away immediately.

Fontenot said the situation fits Blankenship’s “modus operandi” of threatening litigation when opposed.

In my opinion, he does not have a sense of character and fair play to play around in the court system in our country,” Fontenot said.

The trial also bore out that the police chief and assistant chief felt there was a “heightened priority” placed on this case despite being a misdemeanor, which has now proven to be unfounded.

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Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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