‘It’s 100% clickbait.’ Georgia website posts mugshots regardless of how minor the crime (2024)

Channel 2 Action News investigates a Georgia website that posts mugshots regardless of how minor the crime or whether someone was ever found guilty.

Those mugshots can live on indefinitely online no matter what a court decides in the case.

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray found out this can be the first thing to show up on a Google search.

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Georgia lawmakers passed a bill they thought would put an end to websites using police booking photos for profit. But a site called The Georgia Gazette still posts thousands of photos. Even something as simple as an expired tag could label you a criminal online.

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

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

Google Bowen Mendelson’s name and it’s right there up top next to his LinkedIn profile.

“Anyone who’s searching online will see my mugshot and they’ll think like, oh my gosh, like what did this guy do,” said Mendelson.

All it said under his mugshot The Georgia Gazette website is failure to appear. But while Mendelson was once arrested and booked for an expired tag, he has no criminal record.

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

But on The Georgia Gazette that mugshot lived on.

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

LaShawn Pressley lost her job as a home health nurse when her clients saw her on The Georgia Gazette.

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

She had three speeding tickets settled by paying a small fine. But that information isn’t on The Georgia Gazette, just a mugshot and the words “failure to appear for a finger-printable charge - misdemeanor.”

“I lost a job. And I lost a capability even of finding another one,” said Pressley.


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

The Georgia Gazette posts mugshots, filing open records requests and scraping data from sheriff’s offices across the state to post all booking photos, even misdemeanors in 80 Georgia counties.

“I think what they’re doing is despicable to be honest with you,” said State Rep. Roger Bruce.

He wrote the law that was supposed to reign in for profit mugshot websites. It outlaws charging for removing mugs and creates a formal process where websites must remove mugshots for people not convicted of a crime if they submit a request.

“It was never intended for people to make a profit off of a mugshot being out there,” said Bruce.

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

The site is owned by a man named Matthew Sayle. He refused our requests for an interview.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to keep the community safe. It feels like it’s trying to profit off of people’s misfortunes,” said Bowen Mendelson.

Channel 2 wanted to ask Sayle about that.

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

Gray drove down near Savannah, Georgia and discovered the address listed with the Secretary of State’s office as the home of The Georgia Gazette is actually a smoothie shop. Only after finding Sayle has listed an invalid address with the state did Channel 2 try looking for him at home.

“Hello, Matthew. We hear y’all inside there. We’d like to know more about the work you do at The Georgia Gazette,” said Gray to a Ring camera at Sayle’s front door.

Georgia law says sites must take down booking photos within 30 days of a request from people who meet certain requirements. Bowen Mendelson said it took him much longer to get action from The Georgia Gazette.

He even had to hire an attorney to get his removed.

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

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Sayle told Gray in an email:

“To begin, I want to assure you that The Georgia Gazette fully complies with all Georgia laws regarding the removal of booking photographs from our website. We are committed to providing transparency to our readers by listing the reason(s) for each jail booking, while refraining from labeling them anyone as ‘criminals.’ If there are legal concerns surrounding our practices, we believe it’s best to address them directly with the relevant authorities. Our support staff removes dozens of qualified jail bookings from our publication each day. We also have a ‘second chance’ policy where we remove additional bookings regardless of our legal requirement to do so. As for the on-camera interview, we find it inappropriate to participate in a for-profit endeavor with a competing news organization. Lastly, The Georgia Gazette fully respects your freedom of the press. Should any specific allegations arise in your published story, we will promptly address them through a comprehensive rebuttal. Thank you for reaching out to us. If you have any further inquiries or require additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.”

Rep. Bruce encourages people to take their complaints about The Georgia Gazette to their local sheriff.

“Until he’s held accountable and punished for what he’s doing, he’ll continue to do it,” said Bruce.

Looking into Sayle, Channel 2 discovered he has a criminal record of his own. He was convicted of a DUI in 2010.

While we obtained his mugshot through a Freedom of Information Act request, we are not publishing it online like he does. But when Gray emailed asking Sayle about his conviction he wrote, “Stop harassing me.”


‘It’s 100% clickbait.’ Georgia website posts mugshots regardless of how minor the crime (2024)
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