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Activist levels accusations against reporter

Man alleges reporter mailed hate letters; paper refutes claim

Man alleges reporter mailed hate letters; paper refutes claim

February 01, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

The Rev. LeRoy J. Guillory has put out wanted fliers accusing Herald-Mail reporter Gregory T. Simmons of sending hate mail, but Simmons and Executive Editor Terry Headlee said the allegation is not true.

The fliers were distributed as reporter Simmons was checking into Guillory's background.

After an election hearing Monday, Guillory alleged that Simmons sent a series of recent hate letters and said he has offered $5,000 for information leading to Simmons' arrest and conviction.

The fliers - which include two pictures Guillory took of Simmons at a public event - were distributed to The Herald-Mail and other media.


The flier says: "The reward will be issued for the arrest and conviction of this person or any one in conection (sic) with this most odious crime."

The flier asks people with information to call the FBI in Baltimore.

Simmons denied any involvement in the hate mail.

"No. Absolutely not," said Simmons, who covers Hagerstown city government for The Herald-Mail.

Headlee called Guillory's accusations against Simmons "baseless and reckless."

"Greg is a respected, accurate reporter with the highest integrity and we're going to continue to publish his stories," Headlee said.

Simmons has written stories saying that Guillory, a community activist, was involved in the upcoming city election and that Guillory has criticized the city's handling of a cable franchise agreement.

Hagerstown Police have no suspects in the hate-mail incidents, Capt. Charles Summers, the department's acting chief, said Monday.

"If Rev. Guillory has anything specific ... that would lead one to believe that Greg Simmons is involved in this, I'd love to talk to him," Summers said.

Hagerstown Police and the FBI were investigating the letters.

The police department knew of five letters until Guillory said at a City Council meeting last week that he received one, too, Summers said.

The first five letters were on photocopies of outdated police department stationery.

Summers said he has not seen Guillory's letter, but he believes it also was on the same photocopied stationery.

Guillory has said he gave his letter directly to the FBI.

Barry Maddox, a spokesman for the FBI in Baltimore, said the department was aware of the letters and the flier, but wouldn't comment on whether Guillory gave the FBI a letter.

One hate letter went to city employee John Lestitian, who is gay. Another went to Andy Smith, the president of a black advocacy group called Brothers United Who Dare to Care.

Police have declined to say who received the other letters.

Guillory said he believes Simmons sent the letters because of his coverage of the black community and because of the newsroom jobs he has held.

Before taking the Hagerstown city government beat for The Herald-Mail, Simmons covered police and courts.

Guillory also criticized Simmons and the newspaper for publishing the home addresses of city candidates, a practice he said makes them easy targets for people who hate them.

Routine step

Headlee said Simmons' check on Guillory's background was a routine step taken after Guillory said during an Oct. 26, 2004, Hagerstown City Council meeting that he could bring $185 million in development money to the city.

The research was the type that would be done on anyone suggesting he or she could bring $185 million into the community, Headlee said.

Through a Web search, and backed up by court records, Simmons learned that Guillory had been an inmate at a California penitentiary.

Simmons found Compton, Calif., courthouse records that show that LeRoy Joseph Guillory and another defendant were charged in a criminal indictment in connection with alleged crimes committed "on or about Dec. 21, 1992."

Simmons learned from court documents that Guillory was convicted on three felony counts: first-degree burglary, kidnapping and assault with a handgun. He was sentenced on Aug. 24, 1993, to serve 15 years and three months in the California Department of Corrections. The sentence later was reduced to 12 years.

Simmons learned from prison records that Guillory's first day in the California Department of Corrections system was Sept. 10, 1993.

His location within the prison system changed 11 times, but he spent much of his time at Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, Calif.

In May 1998, Guillory was transferred to the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran, which is a separate facility from Corcoran State Prison, according to research.

In June 1999, Guillory was transferred to High Desert State Prison in Susanville, Calif.

On May 25, 2000, Guillory was paroled and on Aug. 21, 2001, he returned to prison, according to prison records.

On July 10, 2002, Guillory was paroled again. His case was closed and he went off parole on May 20, 2004, Simmons learned.

In all, he spent seven years and seven months behind bars, Simmons found.

There is a discrepancy in official records regarding Guillory's age. He is either 35 or 36, according to court documents and prison records.

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