“It’s 100% clickbait.” Georgia website releases mug shots no matter how petty the crime – WSB-TV Channel 2

GEORGIA – Channel 2 Action News is investigating a Georgia website that posts mugshots regardless of how minor the crime was or whether someone was ever convicted.

These mugshots can live on online indefinitely, regardless of a court’s ruling on the case.

Justin Gray, Channel 2 consumer researcher, found that this can be the first thing that comes up when you do a Google search.

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Georgia lawmakers passed legislation they thought would end websites that post mug shots for profit. But a website called The Georgia Gazette still publishes thousands of photos. Even something as simple as a day gone by could categorize you as a criminal online.

“You look like a criminal,” Justin Gray said.

“I look, I agree. I do. Yes, 100%,” said Bowen Mendelson.

Google Bowen Mendelson’s name and it’s at the top next to his LinkedIn profile.

“Anyone who searches online is going to see my mug shot and be like, ‘Oh my god, what did this guy do,'” Mendelson said.

His mug shot on the Georgia Gazette website just said he didn’t show up. But although Mendelson was once arrested and charged with an expired sentence, he has no criminal record.

“There were no fines that I had to pay. All I had to do was get my driver’s license reinstated and that was it,” Mendelson said.

But that mugshot lived on in the Georgia Gazette.

“It’s clickbait. It’s 100% clickbait,” Mendelson said.

LaShawn Pressley lost her job as a home nurse after her clients saw her in the Georgia Gazette.

“It’s my livelihood. It’s my life,” Pressley said.

She had three speeding tickets settled by paying a small fine. But that information isn’t found in the Georgia Gazette, just a mug shot and the words “Failure to appear on a fingerprinted charge – misdemeanor.”

“I lost a job. And I even lost the ability to find another one,” Pressley said.


There used to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly in Savannah called The Georgia Gazette, but it closed years ago.

The Georgia Gazette publishes mugshots, files open-file requests, and collects data from sheriff’s offices across the state to publish all booking photos, even offenses in 80 Georgia counties.

“To be honest, I find what they’re doing despicable,” said MP Roger Bruce.

He wrote the law that would apply to for-profit mugshot websites. It bans mugshot removal fees and creates a formal process by which websites must remove mugshots of people who have not been convicted of a crime when they submit a request.

“It was never intended that people would make a profit by distributing a mugshot,” Bruce said.

But the Georgia Gazette even puts its own watermark on the photos, which are public records and not their property.

The site is owned by a man named Matthew Sayle. He declined our interview requests.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s about keeping the community safe. It feels like trying to capitalize on people’s unhappiness,” said Bowen Mendelson.

Channel 2 wanted to ask Sayle about it.

“It’s Justin Gray from Channel 2 in Atlanta. I’m trying to find the Georgia Gazette,” Gray said.

Gray drove near Savannah, Georgia, and discovered that the address listed in the Secretary of State’s office as the home of the Georgia Gazette was actually a smoothie shop. It was only after it was determined that Sayle had given an invalid address to the state that Channel 2 attempted to search for him at home.

“Hello, Matthew. We hear you all in there. We’d love to hear more about your work at The Georgia Gazette,” Gray told a ring camera on Sayle’s front door.

Georgia law requires websites to remove posting photos within 30 days of a request from individuals who meet certain requirements. Bowen Mendelson said it took the Georgia Gazette much longer to take action.

He even had to hire a lawyer to get his removal.

“When I google my name, that’s what I see,” Mendelson said.

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Sayle told Gray in an email:

“First, I would like to assure you that Georgia Gazette fully complies with all Georgian laws regarding the removal of posting photos from our website. We aim to provide transparency to our readers by providing the reason(s) for each prison sentence without labeling them as “criminals”. When there are legal concerns about our practices, we believe it is best to raise them directly with the appropriate authorities. Our support team removes dozens of qualifying prison bookings from our publication every day. We also have a “second chance” policy where we remove extra bookings, notwithstanding our legal obligation to do so. As for the on-camera interview, we feel it is inappropriate to participate in a for-profit endeavor with a competing news organization. Finally, the Georgia Gazette fully respects your freedom of the press. Should specific allegations appear in your published story, we will immediately resolve them with a comprehensive refutation. Thank you for contacting us. If you have any further questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

Rep. Bruce encourages people to take their Georgia Gazette grievances to their local sheriff.

“As long as he’s not held accountable and punished for what he’s doing, he’s going to keep doing it,” Bruce said.

Channel 2 investigated Sayle and found he had a criminal record himself. He was convicted of drunk driving in 2010.

Although we obtained his mugshot through a Freedom of Information Act request, we are not posting it online like he is. But when Gray asked Sayle via email about his conviction, he wrote, “Stop bothering me.”


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