Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brown's press aide off the hook for taping reporters

The Alameda County District Attorney's office has decided that Attorney General Jerry Brown's press spokesman didn't break California's eavesdropping law when he recorded an interview with Chron reporter Carla Marinucci.

Communications director Scott Gerber is off the hook because, according to District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, the interviews were "meant for publication and airing."

The eavesdropping law, Penal Code Section 632, only applies to "confidential communications" and it excludes "any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded."

Gerber recorded interviews conducted by reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Associated Press and other media organizations.

"The investigation concluded, therefore, that the recorded conversations were not confidential and there is insufficient evidence to support any conclusion that they were meant to be confidential," says a press release from the District Attorney's Office.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the attorney general's office responded Thursday, "The Alameda County District Attorney's independent conclusion validates the Department of Justice's earlier finding that Scott Gerber only taped conversations intended for the public, which was well within the provisions of law. All of the recordings were on-the-record discussions intended for public consumption."

Gerber resigned in November after news of the secret recordings sparked a political firestorm around Brown, who is expected to run for governor.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Talk about mixed messages; Gerber quits and then he's exonerated. Even though Democrat Nancy O'Malley is up for re-election this June this had nothin' to do with nothin'.

The next shoe to drop with be Jerry Brown bringing charges against the Acorn tormentors for doing the same thing Gerber got cleared on. Expect the verdict to be different--doncha know.

Anonymous said...

Guess this means that reporters are now free to tape people they interview on the phone because those conversations are "meant for publication and airing." Betcha a prosecutor going after a journalist wouldn't be as generous as O'Malley has been with Brown and Gerber.

John C. Baker said...

At Anonymous 2: I freely admit to doing just that when I was active in the Peninsula media. After, of course, verifying with the source that the conversation was on the record. It's kind of a dumb law in that respect.