MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - The publishers of a new Ouachita Parish weekly said their paper is more popular than ever. The tabloid, called Justified, features suspects booked into Ouachita Correctional Center; their mug shots and crimes they are accused of committing.
It's a paper that's has many people talking, including the sheriff, who was unaware of the paper until we showed it to him.
It's an issue of profiting off of public information. Justified publishers said the paper is multi-purpose. It informs the public about wanted criminals, registered sex offenders and people arrested for violent crimes.
Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney said it's a service he already provides, and it doesn't cost a dime.
Several Monroe convenience stores dish-out the weekly issue of Justified. For one dollar, you can see the week's Ouachita Correctional Center bookings; the mug shots that are posted on the sheriff's Web site, OPSO.net.
"I have people grabbing it out of my hands, buying them right there," Justified publisher Lea Lucius said.
Lucius said she and business partner Nikki May came up with the idea after seeing a similar tabloid in Tennessee.
Since then business has been booming.
"We're putting out 3,500 issues a week now," Lucius said. "It's really grown. We have 49 stores now."
And, they said, the paper is selling out in cities like Ruston and Bastrop. But it's the sale of public information that has Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney steamed.
"I do not like the idea of anybody profiting from my Web site," Toney said.
Toney calls his department's Web site a public service, one that's paid for by parish tax dollars. Many of the suspects whose pictures appear in Justified were booked for minor offenses.
The sheriff fears they are being degraded.
"Murderers are on there," Toney said, "and people that didn't pay a traffic ticket are on there."
But not all law enforcement looks down on the publication. Monroe Detective Craig Honeycutt said Crimestoppers works closely with Justified, receiving tips about fugitives. He sees it as a useful tool in fighting parish crime.
"It seems that our paper has actually helped them capture a couple of people they were looking for," Lucius said.
While Sheriff Toney isn't pleased about the paper, he and its publisher agree that printing it does not break any law.
Lucius admits she can't please everyone.
"They can't tell us "no," that we couldn't do it, because it is public information," Lucius said. "But that was beside the point. We wanted their support."
"She doesn't work with me at all," Sheriff Toney said. "She doesn't work with me, and she doesn't work with my deputies. She's in it to make money. I'm in it to inform the public."
Justified's publishers said because of the tabloid's popularity, they are even looking into new advertising opportunities.
Meanwhile Sheriff Toney said, because of the tabloid, he will also be looking to advertising to offset the tax payer monies used to keep up the Web site.