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Florida judge grants motion to subpoena 'Dateline' reporter

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that a Florida judge granted a motion to depose Chris Hansen, the host of “Dateline…

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that a Florida judge granted a motion to depose Chris Hansen, the host of “Dateline NBC’s” “To Catch a Predator” programs:

Circuit Judge Kim C. Hammond granted a motion last week seeking to depose Hansen about what he saw when “Dateline NBC,” Perverted Justice and the Flagler Beach Police Department conducted a sex sting in December. Hammond’s decision also would allow Hansen to be questioned about any physical evidence and visual or audio recordings made during the sting.

The motion comes from Todd Spikes, a police officer caught in the show’s sting operation. On the program, Hansen documented a nearly month-long online relationship Spikes had with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl that culminated with a 300-plus mile trip across state lines to meet the decoy in person. Police charged Spikes with attempted lewd or lascivious battery, two counts of lewd or lascivious exhibition, and computer pornography and child exploitation.

The decision should not come as a huge surprise.

Florida’s state shield law explicitly declines to extend its protections to “physical evidence, eyewitness observations, or visual or audio recording of crimes,” and Hammond’s order clearly distinguishes between newsgathering and testimony and evidence relating to the commission of a crime.

In granting the order, Hammond provided bounds on the subject matter of Hansen’s potential deposition, excluding any testimony regarding the sting’s setup or “any other information obtained in preparation for the gathering of news.”