You might not have noticed it during all the election hoopla, but while most of you were out not voting, another chapter of the Greensboro Police Department saga unfolded in a Greensboro courtroom last Tuesday.
This turn of events concerns, among other things, more than 140 hours of recordings made by Officer Scott Sanders during a seven-year period in which Sanders’ primary duty seemed to be investigating black officers within the GPD.
Capt. Brian James and Officer Julius Fulmore — and their lawyer, Amiel Rossabi — want those tapes, as well as all documents and transcripts pertaining to these investigations as evidence in their defamation lawsuit against the Rhinoceros Times, its editor and publisher, respectively John and William Hammer, and true-crime writer Jerry Bledsoe, whose “Cops in Black and White” series, now almost 90 installments spanning more than four years, perpetrated the alleged libel in the paper.
The CDs, more than 70 of them, are in the possession of the police department. In a protective order filed in September, the city claims that the documents contain information on personnel and ongoing investigations, and thus cannot be released.
In this desire to suppress information, attorneys for the city have a strange ally: the Rhinoceros Times. Their lawyer, Seth Cohen, himself a former reporter for the News & Record, last week argued that the city should not surrender these recordings to Rossabi and his clients.
Cohen helped block Rossabi’s request for Bledsoe’s reportage for the “Cops” series in June, and frankly we lauded Cohen’s plea for the sanctity of reportorial privilege.
But this is another matter entirely. Cohen himself is in possession of some of the tapes, as they were evidence in the Sanders trial and Cohen was Sanders’ lawyer, though he denied in court last week ever sharing the tapes — or anything else, for that matter — with his clients at the pugnacious weekly.
Interestingly enough, though the tapes were admitted as evidence in that trial, they were never played for the jury. They did hear a reading of a transcript of a conversation between Sanders and his supervisor at the time, former Deputy Chief Randall Brady, one that seemingly implicated the two of plotting to make trouble for a neighbor of former Chief David Wray.
It always struck us as odd that the jury never heard recording of that conversation, even after Sanders said on the witness stand that anyone could tell Brady was joking by the way he said the words.
At any rate, Bledsoe and John Hammer were among the three journalists in the courtroom last Tuesday; there was no mention of the hearing in last week’s Rhinoceros Times.
We find it hard to believe that a news organization would actively seek to suppress public information. But there you have it.
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