RENO, Nev. (AP) – The Las Vegas Review-Journal is demanding that authorities not examine a slain reporter’s electronics and reporting materials that were confiscated by authorities after his death.
Jeff German’s cell phone, four computers and an external hard drive could be used in the prosecution and defense of German’s alleged killer. But they contain confidential sources and unpublished material protected by federal and state laws, the newspaper argued.
“The Review-Journal recognizes the efforts of law enforcement in investigating the murder of Mr. German and all those who seek to ensure justice is done for this horrific crime,” an attorney representing the Review-Journal said in a letter, which was sent to the local authorities on Thursday, which the newspaper first reported. “However, the newspaper has serious and pressing concerns about the protection of confidential sources and other unpublished journalistic work contained in Mr. German’s confiscated equipment.”
Prosecutors say Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles fatally stabbed German outside his home on Sept. 2, which authorities say could be related to German’s reporting of Telles’ tenure as public administrator. Germans stories contained accounts of Bullying and hostility committed by Telles in the office, as well as an inappropriate relationship with an employee.
Telles lost the Democratic primary in June in his re-election bid. He is currently in prison.
According to the letter, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department seized German’s belongings during their investigation into his death.
In the letter, the Review-Journal’s lawyers argued that the seizure violated the Federal Data Protection Act, which prohibits the search and seizure of journalists’ work products and other documentary materials. They also argued that the information seized is protected by the Nevada Shield Law, which states that no reporter, former reporter or editorial staff member is required to disclose published or unpublished information obtained as part of the news gathering process.
The Review-Journal requested a meeting with law enforcement officials to discuss disposal of the confiscated materials.
“The Review-Journal and the authorities have worked cordially and in good faith since the assassination of Jeff German to address concerns about Jeff’s phone and computer and the extremely sensitive information they contained,” said Glenn Cook, Editor-in-Chief of the Review-Journal, in a statement to The Associated Press. “But the negotiations have reached an impasse.”
The Clark County Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Friday. A spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said in an email that they cannot comment on concrete evidence in cases.
Ashley Kissinger, an attorney representing the newspaper, spoke to prosecutors and the public defender on Thursday. So far, however, the parties have not been able to come to an agreement, she said in an email to The Associated Press.
“The stakes for a free and independent press in Nevada could not be higher,” Kissinger said in a statement to the newspaper. “Law enforcement officials want to verify information in these devices that would likely reveal the newspaper’s confidential sources at those very agencies. This happens in other countries, but not in the United States. This is exactly why we have press protection laws that forbid it.”
On Friday the review journal published an extensive history that German worked before his death. It examines the Las Vegas-based origins and development of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group, as well as the legal troubles they face as a result of their role in the January 6, 2021 riot. German’s writer of the story is with another reporter who ended the story after his death.
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