Feds serve Las Vegas newspaper with subpoena
LAS VEGAS (AP) – A Nevada newspaper says it has been served a federal grand jury subpoena seeking information about readers who posted comments on the paper’s Web site.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that its editor Thomas Mitchell plans to resist the request, which was received after the newspaper reported on a criminal tax fraud trial. The subpoena seeks the identities and personal information about people who commented on a story about Las Vegas business owner Robert Kahre.
Mitchell said anonymous speech is “a fundamental and historic part of this country.”
The newspaper said the document bears the name of U.S. Assistant District Attorney J. Gregory Damm, a lawyer on the Justice Department team that is prosecuting Kahre and others on charges including tax evasion, fraud and criminal conspiracy.
Prosecutors told the judge in the case that some of the comments posted on the newspaper’s Web site hinted at acts of violence, and the subpoena was issued out of concern for jurors’ safety.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the subpoena is not a public record.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for Nevada declined to comment.
The newspaper said it received the subpoena June 2, a week after it ran a story describing the government’s case against Kahre, a construction company executive accused of paying contractors with gold and silver U.S. coins based on the precious metal value of the coins but using the much lower face value of the coins for tax purposes. Kahre, his sister and a former assistant are standing trial for personal income tax evasion as well as their roles in Kahre’s payroll system.
The story drew nearly 175 online comments, most in support of Kahre and critical of the government, the IRS, jurors and attorneys in the case.
One commentator said, “The sad thing is there are 12 dummies on the jury who will convict him. They should be hung along with the feds.”
Another calls Damm a “socialist, fascist Mormon” and a “Nazi moron.”
The comments are written under pseudonyms. Along with the names of people who posted, the subpoena tells the newspaper to supply the writers’ gender, birth date, physical address, telephone number, Internet service provider, IP address and credit card numbers.
Mitchell said the newspaper would consider cooperating if specific crimes or real threats were presented.
After a 2003 raid on Kahre’s business, Kahre and several of his workers sued Damm, two IRS agents and others who were involved. That civil matter is pending.
In February 2007, Kahre sued Damm and agents of the FBI and IRS, alleging criminal behavior. U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra dismissed the complaint in December, and Kahre appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Two years ago, Damm prosecuted a similar tax case against nine defendants, including Kahre, on more than 160 counts. The trial ended with no convictions and four acquittals.
Five defendants were partially acquitted, and two of them were dropped from the indictment that generated the current case.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com