The Pentagon Papers comes to Hinds County. Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith subpoenaed on December 9 all correspondence the Clarion-Ledger received from Christopher Butler. The newspaper said hell no and filed a motion to quash the subpoena on Thursday.
A grand jury indicted Smith in September for three counts of improperly helping criminal defendants. The trial for State v. Robert Shuler Smith is supposed to begin today. One of the criminal defendants is twice-convicted drug dealer Christopher Butler. The Attorney General is currently prosecuting Butler for various charges of consumer fraud. A grand jury also indicted Butler in 2012 for more drug charges. The D.A. attempted to drop the charges but Circuit Judge Jeff Weill refused to allow him to do so. Smith claims that Butler was framed by MBN agents.
Anna Wolfe has been the regular reporter on this story. Butler sent at least one letter to the Clarion-Ledger. Ms. Wolfe wrote several stories about Butler that used correspondence sent by Butler. The subpoena states:
1. You are subpoenaed to produce no I• than Friday, December 16, 2016, all letters that Anna. Wolfe or any other employee has received :&oin Christopher Butler. You may produce these letters by emailing a copy to Jim Waide at waide@waideJaw.com or by faxing them to 662- 842-80S6, AND by emailhig eopies t.o Assistant Attorney Geiwal Robert Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or faxingtommat 601-359-42S4.However, the Clarion-Ledger refused to engage in this foolishness and filed a motion to quash. The motion stated:
the subpoena seeks privileged information protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Smith cannot override that privilege with a demonstration that he cannot obtain the requested information by alternative means when a witness will be available at trial to testify about it, nor has he made any showing that the information is relevant or its production necessary...
2. The letter contains information from a non-confidential source, i.e., Butler, that the newspaper elected not to publish. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi has held the First Amendment protects journalists with a qualified privilege from compelled production of this type of unpublished information and resource material.....
5. The Clarion-Ledger finally notes that if it is subject to compelled document production in response to subpoenas issued by criminal defense attorneys for documents, materials, and information that assisted reporters at The Clarion-Ledger in the writing of news stories about criminal matters – when it is readily apparent the information is obtainable from a witness at the trial and there has been absolutely no showing of the relevance of the sought after document or the need for it – criminal defense attorneys will have the green light to conduct fishing expeditions, as is happening here.
Kingfish note: Jim Waide knows this subpoena is doomed to fail. The only purpose of this motion is for harassment. The subpoena also serves the purpose of intimidating sources if it is allowed to stand. Judge Roberts will hear the hot wind and then make short work of the argument. Of course, this is the same lawyer who tried to put a Judge's clerk on the stand in this case. The same lawyer who gave transcripts to the media and then complained to court about the content of the transcripts and the surrounding publicity- when it was he who created the publicity. Stay tuned.