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Blogger's laptop confiscated in search of his home

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Police in Phoenix searched and confiscated items from the home of a blogger who runs a Web site that is…

Police in Phoenix searched and confiscated items from the home of a blogger who runs a Web site that is critical of the police department.

According to blogger Jeff Pataky, who runs the site, the police confiscated his laptop, wireless router, and paper files including tax documents and bills, when they searched his home in mid-March. Those items have not been returned. Pataky said the officers had a search warrant.

Pataky was out of town on a business trip when the authorities arrived, but he said his roommate was home and waited in handcuffs for three hours while the police searched the house. Her laptop was confiscated as well.

Pataky thinks the raid was in response to both his critical writing on the police and to a civil rights lawsuit he filed against the department after he faced assault charges in an unrelated domestic case; those charges were ultimately dismissed last spring.

Since the raid, he’s been talking to his lawyer about adding to the suit another claim for the confiscation of his computer and files to the pending lawsuit.  Searches and seizures of journalists’ work product violate the federal Privacy Protection Act.

In the meantime, the ordeal hasn’t dissuaded Pataky from working on his blog.

“For about a day I was down,” he said. “Then I got a computer and was back up and running.”

Pataky has run the police site for about a year. He said it focuses on the chief, Jack Harris, and his management of the officers. Though Pataky is not connected to the police department, he says he has many confidential sources with whom he speaks on a regular basis. Despite the name, he says his blog offers a balanced perspective on the agency and its staff.

“The Web site provides a voice and outlet for the good cops to talk about what they want to talk about,” he said, while at the same time, “it exposes corruption and lets the public know about it.”  

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