Reporter doesn't have to turn over confidential investigative summary
A judge on Wednesday quashed a subpoena that would have compelled Illinois Times reporter Dusty Rhodes to surrender a summary of the Illinois State Police investigation of two Springfield police detectives.
Circuit Court Judge Leo Zappa instead directed the city of Springfield to provide a copy of the same document, as well as a resignation letter submitted by former Springfield Police Department Sgt. Ron Vose.
Zappa said he would privately review both documents to determine their relevance to a pending case against an alleged drug dealer.
Criminal-defense lawyer Jon Gray Noll last week subpoenaed Rhodes, ordering her to produce the 30-page summary, which she has a copy of, as well as the resignation letter, which she does not.
Noll, who represents Larry Washington, acted within hours of the publication of Rhodes’ story, which outlined details of the investigative summary [see Dusty Rhodes, “Above the law,” Sept. 28].
Part of a 2,300-page report prepared by the ISP, the summary describes alleged misconduct by Detectives Paul Carpenter and Jim Graham. It also names five high-ranking SPD officers who are accused of violating department general orders. Those officers were each, at one time or another, responsible for supervising Graham and Carpenter.
Washington’s defense hinges in part on the assertion that the detectives provided false information to obtain a warrant to search his home.
Vose, former head of the SPD narcotics unit, submitted a detailed 20-page memorandum to SPD Chief Don Kliment in early 2005, citing examples of alleged misconduct by Carpenter and Graham. Among Vose’s allegations: The two detectives made false statements in affidavits to obtain warrants.
Kliment turned Vose’s memo over to ISP’s division of internal investigations, and subsequently put Carpenter and Graham on paid administrative leave.
Because the two detectives played key roles in solving a number of high-profile criminal cases, several defense lawyers, including Noll, have pushed for disclosure of Vose’s memorandum and the ISP report.
State and federal prosecutors, however, signaled last summer that they would not seek criminal charges against Carpenter and Graham. The ISP then interviewed the two detectives and submitted its final report to Kliment in June. Kliment is reviewing the report, but he has not indicated when the internal-affairs investigation is likely to conclude. Ward 2 Ald. Frank McNeil recently called on Kliment to act, saying there is already ample evidence to merit the dismissal of both detectives.
Police-union attorney Ron Stone, who represents Carpenter and Graham, has said he expects that the two detectives will be cleared. He has argued that the investigation, which has taken more than a year, has been untimely and notes that some allegations against the detectives date back to 1999.
The ISP summary provides the most detailed look so far at the breadth of alleged misconduct by Carpenter and Graham.
Carpenter, for example, is accused of submitting a false record of community-service hours to assist a confidential informant in 2003; Graham is accused of sleeping with a witness in a yet-unsolved murder case. The summary names several informants and witnesses.
Rhodes’ story on Sept. 28 reported on portions of the summary in which Carpenter or Graham addressed specific allegations or made admissions about their activities; it did not name confidential sources or disclose the identities of private individuals who are not under investigation.
Because the summary includes confidential information, on Monday, Oct. 2, the city of Springfield asked Zappa for permission to intervene in the case and to quash the subpoena; alternatively, the city asked Zappa to limit disclosure of the document to attorneys involved in the Washington case. The city’s motion describes the ISP investigation and Vose’s resignation letter — neither of which refers to the Washington case — as “wholly irrelevant.” The police union also intervened to quash the subpoena.
Don Craven, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association, filed a motion asserting Rhodes’ right under state law to withhold unpublished information and protect the sources of those materials.
During a hearing on Wednesday, Craven said that Noll had failed to take the proper steps to “divest Ms. Rhodes of her privilege” and that requiring her to testify or surrender the documents would violate state law. Compelling her to turn over the documents would impede the ability of the press “to do its job without becoming an involuntary investigator for the state.”
Noll, however, said Rhodes was “trying to hide behind the reporter privilege.”
“How can she assert a right to something she doesn’t have a right to?” Noll asked. “There’s a cold hard document in her possession that may very well free this gentleman,” he said, referring to Washington.
Craven said there was no evidence that Rhodes obtained the ISP summary illegally or improperly. “She did her job as a reporter — and she did it well.” He pointed out that the city has the documents — the ISP report and the resignation letter — sought by Noll, providing an alternative means for the court to obtain and review them.
That gave Zappa a way to address the defense motion without locking horns with the press. He asked Angela Fyans, assistant corporation counsel for the city, whether she would agree to allow him to review the documents. “I get around the Ms. Rhodes issue for now,” he said. Addressing Noll, Zappa said, “You may not be happy, but I am.”
In the March 17, 2005, search of Washington’s home, police officers founds almost 500 grams of powder cocaine in a graham-cracker box in a kitchen pantry. Washington, a former gang member with a 1994 felony conviction for the manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance, has maintained his innocence, claiming that the cocaine was planted.
The affidavit for the search warrant, drafted by Graham, relied on two sources of evidence for probable cause: a “trash rip,” in which Graham and Carpenter sifted through Washington’s garbage and found plastic bags said to contain cocaine residue, plus information from a federal agent implying that a search could recover a weapon used in the 1999 murder of a Chicago police officer. Illinois Times, however, reported that Washington has a document showing that his trash was not out at the time detectives claim to have found it; the gun the detectives suggested they sought had been recovered years earlier [Dusty Rhodes, “Cutting corners,” Jan. 26].
Illinois Times also reported that several items in Washington’s case were missing, including a search-warrant return, which would have listed items taken by police during the search, and a videotape of officers interrogating Washington after the search.
Washington, free on a $200,000 bond, was rearrested in May after SPD Lt. Rickey Davis claimed that Washington tried to intimidate him when the two men ran into each other at a local gym. (Davis is one of the SPD officers accused in the ISP summary of failing to supervisor Graham and Carpenter.) On the basis of Davis’ description of the encounter, Zappa increased Washington’s bond by $1 million, and Washington was rearrested.
Despite Davis’ allegations, no new charges were filed. Nevertheless, Washington spent two months behind bars before he could meet the higher bond amount [Dusty Rhodes, “Price of freedom,” June 22].
Contact Roland Klose at firstname.lastname@example.org.