NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · PENNSYLVANIA · Confidentiality/Privilege · March 15, 2006
Newspaper’s computers seized by government officials
March 15, 2006 · The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office seized four computers of a Lancaster, Pa., newspaper Tuesday in search of information about whether the county coroner illegally gave reporters access to a restricted area of the coroner’s Web site.
Senior Judge Barry F. Feudale, who presided over a grand jury investigating how a restricted area of Lancaster County Coroner Dr. G. Gary Kirchner’s Web site was breached, agreed to allow prosecutors access to the Intelligencer Journal ‘s computers. The newspaper appealed, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to hear the case last week, allowing the prosecutors to search the computers.
According to an article in the Lancaster New Era — which is owned by the same company as the Intelligencer — the Intelligencer offered to give the investigators printed versions of the items they requested, including e-mails. Prosecutors turned down the offer because they wanted to scan the computers for additional information, the New Era reported.
The paper also reported that prosecutors plan to use “special forensic equipment” that will scan the hard drives only for relevant material. Feudale has stated that he will personally review all material before it is given to prosecutors.
The newspaper’s attorney, William A. DeStefano, did not return phone calls.