Rudy Warnock could be a fictional character in one of Grisham’s thrillers, but unfortunately, he’s a real character.

Fired in early 2016 as Madison County’s engineer, Warnock has subpoenaed Madison County Journal records as part of his ongoing $6.3 million federal lawsuit over his termination at Canton Municipal Utilities later that year.

The subpoena signed by a Ridgeland trial lawyer commands the Journal to produce “any and all notes, records, documents and/or recordings of any Canton Municipal Utilities board meetings held during the months of December 2016 and/or January 2017.”

Warnock is asking for records we don’t have — and even if we did we’d still fight to have his subpoena quashed on principle.

Fishing around in American newsrooms is not a hallmark of our First Amendment and Rudy and his lawyers ought to know better, but Rudy is Rudy.

Madison County fired him, CMU fired him. Why is he still here?

Back to the Grisham thriller. Warnock reveals in the CMU lawsuit that in 2016 he was caught up in an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill the Madison mayor and the Journal’s associate editor and publisher.

 Text messages obtained by the Journal show Warnock threatened to physically harm the editor.

Warnock’s lawyer said last week the “(CMU board) minutes only tell so much” and they are seeking recordings and other notes from the newspaper.

“Somebody seems to think there was a recording being made of a meeting,” he said.

Just because “somebody” seems to think there is a recording of a meeting doesn’t mean that “somebody” can walk into a newsroom and demand a reporter turn over his or her notes.

If that were the case, every crook in the country would just keep journalists tied up in court.

Warnock filed suit against CMU in March 2017 seeking over $6.3 million in damages, claiming nearly $2.4 million is from work that had already been completed and nearly $4 million as a result of a termination clause in his contract.

It was this same lawsuit where Warnock alleges the murder-for-hire plot.

A CMU board member allegedly told Warnock it would take $10,000 apiece to kill the mayor and the editor after Warnock expressed frustration over a headline.

Did Rudy ever think to call the police?

In 2016, after he was fired, Madison County settled a lawsuit with Warnock for $550,000 after he sued in a dispute over $1.4 million in unpaid invoices.

Some of the invoices involved dated back nearly a decade at the time of the lawsuit.

As part of the settlement, both sides admitted no wrongdoing.

But, there’s a pattern here of bullying, going to court and getting money.

The press in America is the sacred Fourth Estate, separate and apart from government, protected by the Constitution from those in the government, — or in this case, those who work for the government — those bad actors who might be inclined to intimidate or otherwise bog down and discourage the press from telling the truth.

Rudy is back on the scene with a subpoena to bully the press and it’s not going over well here in Madison County.