Judge to rule on whether black cops can have Sanders tapes

by Jordan Green

Author Jerry Bledsoe (left), lawyer Seth Cohen (center) and Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer left a Guilford County courtroom on Tuesday after a Wilkes County judge said he would take three weeks to consider arguments in a defamation lawsuit filed by two black officers.

Greensboro police officers Brian James and Julius Fulmore filed a motion seeking to compel the city of Greensboro to release recordings made by Officer Scott Sanders over a period of seven years.

Cohen also represented Sanders, whose reports have formed the basis of much of the “Cops In Black and White” series in The Rhinoceros Times, in a criminal trial in which the defendant was acquitted.

The NC Court of Appeals upheld a trial court order denying the plaintiff’s the right to review Bledsoe’s reporting notes earlier this year.

The city submitted a memo from the police department stating that the internal affairs division has 140 hours of recordings and 4,668 pages of documents relevant to James and Fulmore’s request.

In a preview of his trial argument, plaintiffs lawyer Amiel Rossabi showed

Judge Edgar B. Gregory a transcript of a recorded conversation between Sanders and former Deputy Chief Randall Brady as an example of the kind of material the city might have and it relevance to the black officers’ complaint. “The recordings shows that [former] Chief [David] Wray had trouble with a neighbor. Chief Brady tells Scott Sanders to do something about it. Brady says Chief Wray knows about it, but if anyone asks, don’t implicate Wray.” Rossabi went on to read some of the allegedly defamatory statements in Bledsoe’s series, and then to contend that the author would likely tell the court that Wray and Brady were his primary sources for much of the material. Relying on such sources, Rossabi said, “is reckless disregard for the truth.”

Rossabi also argued that the city of Greensboro was motivated to file a protective order to avoid handing over the trove of recordings and documents because it “is trying to do as much damage control as possible, and they are doing it on the backs of my clients.”

Cohen argued in support of the city that Rossabi’s efforts to obtain the documents amount to a backdoor means of obtaining the same results when he tried to compel Bledsoe to produce his reporting notes.

“Mr. Rossabi has made unsubstantiated allegations that Mr. Bledsoe must have known that everything he wrote was a lie, that John Hammer knew that what he was publishing was a lie,” Cohen said. “He has everything in his possession that Mr. Bledsoe relied on to write his articles. He has to show actual malice. He thinks he’s going to listen to all these recordings, and then say, ‘Oh, here it is, judge. Here’s what I’ve been looking for.’ This is a quintessential fishing expedition.”

For a full report, visit the website — Jordan Green