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Friday, January 11, 2008

St. Paul / Records case inquiry sought

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Blogger Bob said...

Reporter, deputy accuse cops of misconduct
BY MARA H. GOTTFRIED
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 01/11/2008 12:33:31 AM CST


A local television reporter asked the Ramsey County sheriff's office Thursday for a criminal investigation into the St. Paul Police Department's obtainment of his phone records.

Also Thursday, police reports about the case released for the first time suggest police looked into whether the KMSP-TV (Fox 9) reporter broke the law. St. Paul police Chief John Harrington said last month that the case was not an investigation into the reporter, and he said Thursday that is still true.

Harrington has said police were investigating whether a Ramsey County sheriff's deputy violated the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act by giving a police report to reporter Tom Lyden. Police determined the deputy hadn't broken the law because the report was a public document and have closed the case.

Lyden said he thinks he was the subject of the investigation.

"I believe I was targeted in an effort to intimidate me and the sources I talk to every day," he said.

The deputy, Steve Lydon, sent a letter to Harrington on Thursday, requesting an internal affairs investigation.

Reports about the investigation give this account of what happened:

About 4:15 p.m. June 11, Lyden went to the police records department and asked for a report involving a 2000 citation for careless driving. Because the case's outcome wasn't noted in the report, Lyden was given only the public information, not the full report.

The citation had been issued to the wife of a man who shot an
undercover Robbinsdale police officer during a road rage incident June 7 in Coon Rapids.
About 5:55 p.m., Lydon went to the records department and requested the same report. Because he had law enforcement ID, he was given the full report.

"The fact that ... Lydon inserted himself into the situation and used his credentials to obtain the documents that T. Lyden had been denied made me suspicious that the two of them had conspired to violate the Data Practices Act and possibly other offenses," an investigator wrote.

But citizens can't violate the Data Practices Act - only government officials, according to Twin Cities media attorneys. Because of that, they said it would be unlikely Lyden could have been charged with conspiracy to violate the act.

"If you're a journalist and you go up to a public official and say, 'I would really love for you to give me some private information,' that's absolutely not criminal," said Mark Anfinson, an attorney who is an expert in the data practices act. "I've never heard of a journalist charged on that basis."

Harrington said Thursday he stands by his statement last month that the case focused on Lydon, who heads the sheriff's office special investigations and intelligence unit. The conspiracy aspect was "one of the many facets" police looked at, Harrington said.

In July, police requested and obtained search warrants for two months of Lydon's and Lyden's phone records "to determine whether Lyden and Lydon had a long-standing pattern of communication," the report said. Police have said if the men talked only sporadically, for example, the June 11 conversation would more likely show they were talking about the police report.

Lyden sent a letter to Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher on Thursday, asking for an investigation into whether police violated state laws against maliciously procuring search warrants and against the news media not having to reveal sources of information. Fletcher said his office agreed to open an investigation and will decide whether to refer it to another agency.

Lydon's letter to Harrington asks for an internal affairs investigation into whether false claims were made to get the search warrant. Lydon said police knew, or should have known, the report was public - and therefore a crime hadn't been committed - before they sought the search warrants.

"The conduct in this investigation appears to have brought dishonor on the St. Paul Police Department," Lydon wrote.

Police spokesman Tom Walsh said he couldn't comment on the internal affairs request or the sheriff's office investigation.

Mara H. Gottfried covers St. Paul public safety. She can be reached at 651-228-5262 or mgottfried@pioneerpress.com.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical actions of St. Paul officials. They knowingly violate constitutional rights and just don't care. I for one would like to see the Feds step in and take over St. Paul. The media could help by informing the public of the misconduct of St.Paul's officials. Only informed individuals can make decisions. Voters need the proper knowledge of what is really going on in St. Paul

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The voters will know very soon just exactly what's going on in St Paul.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Sharon Anderson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media refuses to say or print anything about the corruption and civil rights violations in the city of St Paul inspections department, but when one of the media gets their rights violated they squeal like a bunch of pigs.

12:48 PM  

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