SANTA FE, NM – A lawyer for the Santa Fe police union wants a television reporter to reveal how he got a video of an incident that led to disciplinary actions against four officers.
KOB-TV’s Gadi Schwartz aired a segment from a dashboard-camera video of two officers subduing a man in a Walmart parking lot last year.
Timothy White, a lawyer for two officers fired after the incident and two others who were suspended, maintains that someone in city government leaked Schwartz the video to manipulate public opinion.
“He didn’t do any sort of formal request,” White said. “Somebody met him, you know, Deep Throat in a parking lot.”
White’s attempt to summon Schwartz to testify in a lawsuit is opposed by KOB’s lawyers, who maintain that state law shields reporters from revealing their sources.
Schwartz said White’s actions have put him in a difficult situation.
“When I give my word that someone’s identity will be protected, I mean it,” he said. “As a journalist, it would be irresponsible for me to say anything that would even suggest where I got the video from.”
Police officers Troy Baker, Steve Cosban, Matthew Champlin, Daniel Parsons and Joshua Ramirez were involved the arrest of Michael Schaefer on charges of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct on March 16, 2010.
After KOB aired the video two days later, all charges were dropped against Schaefer, 39.
An internal-affairs investigation cleared the police officers on charges of using excessive force, but after Ray Rael took over as interim police chief from Aric Wheeler, Rael suspended Champlin and Parsons without pay for three weeks and fired Baker and Cosban for falsifying reports of the incident. No punishment was meted out against Ramirez.
In June, White filed a civil lawsuit in state District Court on behalf of the officers against Rael, Deputy Police Chief Gillian Alessio, City Manager Robert Romero and the city, seeking to block the discipline.
White sought to have Schwartz testify as part of the lawsuit as well as an arbitration with the city over the firings and suspensions that goes to arbiter Philip David on Dec. 5-7.
He said the city typically has declined to release to the media information that is part of a personnel matter or an internal-affairs investigation. But in this case, White said, KOB aired “10 seconds of video, instead of the whole thing showing all the misbehavior by this guy and all the things that led up to the officers’ decision to arrest him.”
The full video subsequently was released to the media.
White said he’s “weighing my options on how to proceed” against KOB’s lawyers’ contentions that Schwartz is immune from testifying in the case because he is protected by a news media privilege.
Schwartz, 28, who lives in Santa Fe and has been working for the Albuquerque NBC affiliate since he graduated from New Mexico State University in 2005, said journalists have a responsibility to protect anonymous sources.
“Sometimes in the course of investigating stories, sources fear retaliation and ask that we don’t reveal their identity when providing us information,” he said. “When that happens, it becomes my responsibility to take information they give me and weigh the validity of what is given. I can assure you I take that very seriously.”
From The New Mexican.