District Attorney withdraws subpoena

****Appended with correction, updates and quote from spokesperson for Orange County District Attorney.***

CORRECTION: A previous version referred to Autumn Major as an assistant district attorney. In fact, Major’s name appears on a document faxed to Saddleback College as part of a subpoena served on the college and the Lariat. Major is an employee of the Orange County District Attorney but does not practice law, according to D.A. Spokesperson Farrah Ememi.

A second attempt by the Orange County District Attorney to force the Saddleback College Lariat student newspaper to surrender information in a criminal case has been lifted.

For now.

A subpoena issued to the Lariat seeking all notes, records and unedited video footage of an alleged assault on a campus safety officer that was withdrawn Monday (May 12) will remain dormant unless there is need to revive it.

Lariat Editor-in-Chief Cerise Ostrem re-confirmed the news in a conversation with a District Attorney spokesperson late Thursday (May 15).

“We’ve withdrawn the subpoena right now,” Farrah Ememi said. “If, later on, we feel it is necessary to the case, we will continue to pursue it.”

Attorney Robyn Aronson first told Ostrem the news in a telephone conversation Monday. Aronson represents the Lariat on behalf of the Student Press Law Center.

The subpoena was issued May 5 requiring materials to be hand-delivered or mailed within five days of service. It was dated May. 1.

The most-recent document was the second in a series of attempts that sought to gain possession of unpublished information collected by the Lariat in the course of reporting on a series of news stories. It was collected by Lariat staff members during a breaking news event April 9 involving an alleged incident between Saddleback student Zach Chanoski and Saddleback Campus Police Officer Santos Garcia.

An article, pictures and video of Garcia’s attempt to arrest Chanoski as he resisted were posted on the newspaper’s Web site. Video footage was edited in part to remove graphic language and racial slurs from Chanoski.

Ostrem said she was first pressured in a telephone call to release the unedited video, April 23. She said she denied the request by Saddleback Chief-of-Police Harry Parmer. She cited the California Shield Law.

“I don’t see the point of carrying this out any longer,” Ostrem said. “We’re clearly within our rights as journalists. The Shield Law was established for cases like this.”

The Shield Law was established to protect journalists from being forced to disclose unnamed sources and unpublished information. It defines the role of the journalist as a news-gatherer, separate from litigation.

On May 1, a subpoena requesting unedited video was issued in response by District Attorney Johanna Kim. It was directed to Lariat staff member Bill Bridgeford, who later told Kim he neither shot, was in possession of, or knew the location of the footage. Kim told Bridgeford the subpoena would be quashed.

Chanoski, who continues to make contact with the Lariat via email and phone messages, is due back in court Thursday (May 15) at 9 a.m. at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. He is prohibited from entering the Saddleback campus, college officials have said.

Saddleback began a week of final exams today, and the hard copy of the Lariat has shutdown production until September.

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