The Nevada U.S. Attorney office has scaled back Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Damm’s subpoena to the Las Vegas Review-Journal seeking identifying information about people who commented on a May 26 article about an ongoing tax evasion trial, including one commenter who called Damm “evil incarnate.” Click here for our earlier report on the flap.
Now, the office is only requesting information about two comments that may be considered threatening to jurors or prosecutors.
Review-Journal Editor Thomas Mitchell has indicated he will comply with the new, much narrower, request. ”I’d hate to be the guy who refused to tell the feds Timothy McVeigh was buying fertilizer,” Mitchell said in the R-J article. But the ACLU is not satisfied. The civil liberties organization has filed a motion to quash the new subpoena.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra will have to decide whether the two comments constitute a threat to the safety of jurors or prosecutors. One of the comments refers to the jurors as “12 dummies” who should be hung if they return a conviction. The other comment came from someone who wanted to wager ”quatloos” (Star Trek currency) that one of the federal prosecutors would not reach his next birthday.
Both comments have been removed from the site because they violate the paper’s policies, the R-J reported. After the newspaper publicized the subpoena, the number of comments on the story almost doubled, from 100 to around 200, the paper said.
The scaled back subpoena bore the name of Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Johnson, not the author of the original subpoena, Damm. This isn’t the first time Damm has been the subject of public scrutinty. Last year, Damm was blasted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for witholding 650 pages of evidence from the defense.
Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote: “This is prosecutorial misconduct in its highest form; conduct in flagrant disregard of the United States Constitution; and conduct which should be deterred by the strongest sanction available.” Wardlaw dismissed the charges and refused to allow a retrial. Nevada U.S. Attorney Greg Brower’s spokesman Natalie Collins told Law.com that ”OPR’s investigation concluded that the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not engage in any intentional misconduct.”