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Metro appeals decision barring them from Jeff German’s personal devices

Updated October 19, 2022 - 4:54 pm

The Metropolitan Police Department has appealed a judge’s decision to bar officials from searching the personal devices of slain Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German.

Last week, District Judge Susan Johnson granted a preliminary injunction that prevents officials from searching the devices, which police seized while investigating German’s killing. Johnson signed a related order on Tuesday, specifying that officials cannot search through German’s iPhone, three iMac computers, a MacBook and an external hard drive.

Metro appealed the ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court, according to a notice filed Wednesday in Clark County District Court.

“The appeal doesn’t mean that the preliminary injunction goes away. It’s still in place until the Supreme Court hears this,” Metro attorney Matthew Christian said during a court hearing Wednesday.

Christian declined to comment following the hearing.

Johnson said she had planned to ask representatives of Metro, the district attorney’s office and the public defender’s office to identify information they believe is on German’s devices that they would like to access. But she determined that she no longer has jurisdiction over the case now that an appeal has been filed.

“At this point, out of an abundance of caution, I’m not going to proceed any further,” Johnson said during Wednesday’s hearing.

German, 69, was found dead of stab wounds outside his Las Vegas home on Sept. 3. Former Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, who was the subject of German’s reporting, is accused of fatally stabbing the journalist.

Attorneys representing the newspaper have argued that Metro’s seizure of German’s devices violated Nevada’s shield law and the federal Privacy Protection Act.

Metro attorneys have asserted that searching the devices is necessary to investigate the crime and give Telles a fair trial. Edward Kane, one of Telles’ public defenders, has said he would like to search through the devices for any information on alternate suspects who may have communicated with German.

Johnson previously indicated that she was inclined to establish a small group known as a “taint team,” made up of “trusted Metro higher-ups,” to search through German’s devices. The team would be supervised by a judge from the Reno area to prevent information from being leaked from German’s notes or list of sources.

In court documents filed Wednesday, the Review-Journal proposed a protocol in which former U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen would review the devices with David Roger, a former district attorney who serves as the Las Vegas Police Protective Association’s general counsel.

The protocol proposed by the newspaper would give all the parties the chance to dispute which information should be released to investigators.

The Review-Journal has opposed anyone from Metro, the district attorney’s office or the public defender’s office searching through German’s information. The newspaper has argued that officials could discover confidential sources from articles German wrote about those agencies and put those sources at risk of retaliation.

“No matter the cautions taken, a taint team comprising Metro employees, whether high-level officials or anyone else, would put Metro’s fox in charge of the henhouse carefully cultivated by Mr. German and the Review-Journal,” the newspaper’s attorneys wrote in court documents filed Wednesday.

The Review-Journal also filed a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order on Wednesday that would prevent officials from searching through any car owned by German that contains data related to his newsgathering. The newspaper filed the motion after hearing from a concerned person in the technology security industry, who stated that German’s cellphone data or GPS location information could be stored in his car’s electronics, the motion states.

Johnson did not rule on the motion during Wednesday’s court hearing.

“I just want to say for the record that I hope that Metro will not take any steps to search any of that material, because it’s fairly encompassed within all the issues that we’re talking about here,” Ashley Kissinger, an attorney representing the Review-Journal, said during the hearing.

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Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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