The San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union, both owned by Hearst, are trying to obtain the redacted names of players and others cited in the investigation of former New York Mets bat boy, Kirk Radomski. The newspapers have filed a motion to unseal Kirk Radomski’s affidavit in support of search warrant from 2005. It was that affidavit which contained the redacted names of 22 “MLB associated individuals” who had purchased performance-enhancing drugs from Radomski as well as other incriminating information.
From the application to “access to certain sealed documents” filed jointly by the Chronicle and the Times Union:
“The San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union, both Hearst newspapers, respectfully move this Court for an order unsealing documents in United States v. The Premises Known and Described as [Redacted], No. 05-M-1539 (E.D.N.Y.), related to a December 14, 2005 search warrant for Kirk Radomski’s home, specifically including redacted portions of the affidavit supporting issuance of that warrant. This application is grounded in the First Amendment and federal common law rights of access to publicly filed judicial documents.”
The Chronicle, led by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, broke the BALCO story which eventually led to the book, Game of Shadows. The Times Union first broke the story about the internet performance-enhancing drug distribution, which implicated doctors and pharmacists and business owners.
The newspapers make a convincing argument that the government should be required to release the affidavit in full. They argue that the Chronicle’s reporting on BALCO not only was a major catalyst in changing Major League Baseball’s drug policy, but the national attention put an emphasis on performance-enhancing drug use among youth.
“The public interest and knowledge of the pervasive use of drugs in sport comes entirely from the reporting done on this subject by some of this country’s best investigative reporters. Without this reporting on the names of well-known and well paid stars, such as Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds, the public would still believe that baseball was a clean sport and the government would have indicated a few drug dealers who would have been all but forgotten. Instead, there is now a new MLB drug testing policy, national attention on the increased use of drugs at the high school sports level and the public knows that some of our hero athletes are highly paid liars.”
The newspapers go on to argue that once Radomski pleaded guilty, there were no legal grounds to keep the information sealed. If the case is closed (which the government stated April 27, 2007) and the government has provided the information to private citizens (George Mitchell and his employees) than that information should be available to everyone.
“All of the public, not just Senator Mitchell and his private client, has a strong right of access to all information contained in the search warrant and supporting materials… Surely friends of the powerful are entitled to no greater First Amendment rights than members of the general public, nor are they (or their government benefactors) exempt from the strictures of sealing orders.”
The government clearly wanted to aid the Mitchell Investigation. They saw value in legitimizing the former Senator’s report, but they may have crossed a constitutional line involving the right to information.
The report after all, now fueled by confidential government information, is supposed to be an explanation and documentation of baseball’s steroid era basically so everyone can understand what happened. It sounds a lot like motive for the newspapers wanting the information, newspapers which to this point have been by far the most influential on the actions taken to clean up the sport.