by Walter Brasch
American Reporter Senior Correspondent
Oct. 23, 2009
SCARY ISN'T A KID IN A HALLOWE'EN COSTUME
HOLLYWOOD. -- The board of directors of the Los Angeles Press Club has condemned the actions of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in violating a reporter's right under state law to maintain confidential sources.
In a case involving Harvey Levin, head of the Website TMZ com and a regular on network entertainment shows, the Sheriff's Dept. got a search warrant to seize Levin's private home telephone records. and used them to identify the reporter's confidential sources for a story on actor Mel Gibson anti-semitic outburst followibng a DUI arrest in 2006..
The vebnerable press club called it "a direct assault on freedom of the press."
Harvey Levin is the founder and editor of TMZ.com, a Hollywood celebrity website.
"According to records examined by the Los Angeles Times, a now identified Sheriff's deputy, who believed he was acting as a confidential source and a whistleblower, leaked the story behind actor Mel Gibson's drunk-driving arrest in 2006," the club said in a press release.
Levin says the department is seeking "revenge" for his publishing the story that charged the arresting deputy was ordered by superiors to suppress the details of Gibson's abusive language and behavior and anti-Semitic remarks.
He only found out about the warrant when he read about it in the Los Angeles Times, Levin said..
"We share Mr. Levin's outrage as well as the deep concern of the executive director of The Reporter's Committee for the Freedom of the Press," said Los Angeles Press Club President Chris Woodyard, a reporter for USA Today.
"The tradition of protecting a reporter's sources is key to the media's role as watchdog-that's why the California Shield Law was enacted. And that's why there is a federal shield law winding its way through Congress. This assault on the First Amendment should not be tolerated in a free society," Woodyard said.
The American Reporter has been a member of the Los Angeles Press Club since the club's reorganization in 1998.