LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Lawyers for the Las Vegas Review-Journal are seeking sanctions against Metro police, arguing that police illegally searched the phone and computers seized in the investigation of reporter Jeff German’s death — and then lied about it.
A motion filed in Clark County District Court blasts the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s disregard of Nevada’s shield law, asserting protections in state law and also in the First Amendment.
German, 69, an investigative reporter, was killed on Sept. 2 outside his home. Robert Telles, a former county official who was the subject of stories that German wrote, is accused in his stabbing death. A court document indicated Metro identified Telles as a “person of interest” in the investigation based on data obtained by searching a phone.
Police searched German’s phone within a few days of his death, long before legal efforts to prevent a search, according to the RJ. Metro never has admitted that the search occurred.
“It is bad enough that Metro violated this federal statute, unilaterally and secretly breaching this important privilege. But Metro then hid the truth by leading Plaintiffs — and the Nevada courts — to believe, both by its words and by its silence, that it has never searched Mr. German’s phone,” the motion stated.
Lawyers are demanding immediate, detailed disclosure of the search of German’s phone and five other electronic devices “and any other material obtained in the German murder investigation that possibly contains news gathering material.” The RJ also wants all papers Metro filed denying the search be stricken from the record, and an order for Metro to pay attorney’s fees.
“Confidential sources are critical to journalism in the public interest,” Review-Journal executive editor Glenn Cook said. “It would be a travesty if Jeff German’s murder resulted in authorities learning the identities of his sources. It could literally cost them their careers. A reporter’s murder shouldn’t end the reporter’s shield law and First Amendment protections.”
High profile Las Vegas attorney David Z. Chesnoff is among the lawyers representing the RJ in the case.