ACLU challenges arrest of Key West newspaper publisher in court

Newsgathering | Feature | February 6, 2002

    NMU         FLORIDA         Newsgathering         Feb 6, 2002    

ACLU challenges arrest of Key West newspaper publisher in court

  • The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Key West Police Chief on behalf of a newspaper publisher who was arrested after alleging wrongdoing throughout the police department.

The publisher of Key West The Newspaper -- arrested last year for publishing information regarding an internal police investigation -- sued the local police chief with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in December.

Dennis Cooper published several articles ridiculing the Key West Police Department, saying an officer lied under oath and an internal affairs officer cleared the officer without conducting an investigation. Cooper filed his own complaint with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which began an internal investigation.

Following the publication of the articles, Police Chief Gordon "Buzz" Dillon issued a warrant for Cooper's arrest in June 2001, and Cooper turned himself in. Charges were later dropped.

Police said Cooper's arrest was not because of the negativity expressed in the articles but as a result of his violation of a state law that prohibits anyone, including the person who filed the complaint, from divulging information regarding an internal police investigation before it is entered as public record.

ACLU attorney Randall Marshall said the state law was declared unconstitutional in 1990, and Cooper's articles were a result of his own newsgathering -- not an internal investigation.

"There is an element of personal vindictiveness in this case," Marshall said.

(Cooper v. Dillon; Media counsel: Randall Marshall, American Civil Liberties Union, Miami) -- KG

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