Did the Los Angeles County sheriff's department break the law by obtaining and poring over the phone records of TMZ editor Harvey Levin, looking for evidence that a deputy leaked Mel Gibson's arrest file? Media groups say yes, the department says no. "That's illegal," Lucy Dalglish, an attorney and executive director of the Virginia-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the L.A. Times. "Most law enforcement agencies know it's illegal . . . or have a hard time getting a judge signing off on it." Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore says a judge did sign off on it, after a prosecutor said it was OK: "What we did we believe was legal." Ah, but there's more in the story:
Legal experts said the California Constitution protects journalists from being forced to reveal their sources.
State law, they said, also bars judges from issuing search warrants for unpublished information that is gathered by reporters....
She noted that Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley has a written policy on search warrants, which says they "cannot be used to obtain the source of any news information."
"He feels strongly about not infringing upon a reporter's rights," Gibbons said.
No charges were filed against a deputy involved in the Gibson case who was found to have made calls to Levin.