"Fear & Loathing" ReVisited;
Vegas paper gets subpoena to ID online commenters
The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 6:34 PM
LAS VEGAS -- A Nevada newspaper says it has been served a federal grand
jury subpoena seeking information about readers who posted comments on the
paper's Web site.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that its editor, Thomas
Mitchell, plans to fight the request, which the newspaper received after
reporting on a federal tax fraud case against business owner Robert Kahre.
The subpoena seeks the identities and personal information about people who
posted comments on the story. The newspaper said prosecutors told the
judge in the case that some comments hinted at acts of violence and the
subpoena was issued out of concern for jurors' safety.
Mitchell said anonymous speech is "a fundamental and historic part of this
country." The newspaper would consider cooperating if specific crimes or
real threats were presented, he said.
The newspaper said the subpoena bears the name of U.S. Assistant District
Attorney J. Gregory Damm, a lawyer on the Justice Department team that is
prosecuting Kahre and others on charges including income tax evasion, fraud
and criminal conspiracy.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the subpoena is not a public record.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for Nevada declined to comment.
The newspaper said it received the subpoena June 2, a week after its story
describing the government's case against Kahre, a Las Vegas construction
company executive accused of paying contractors with gold and silver U.S.
coins based on the precious metal value of the coins but using the much lower
face value of the coins for tax purposes. Kahre and the other defendants
have pleaded not guilty.
The story drew nearly 175 online comments by Monday night, most in support
of Kahre and critical of the government and jurors and attorneys in the
One commentator said: "The sad thing is there are 12 dummies on the jury
who will convict him. They should be hung along with the feds."
Another called Damm a "socialist, fascist Mormon" and a "Nazi moron."
The comments are written under pseudonyms. Along with the real names of
people who posted comments, the subpoena asks the newspaper for the writers'
gender, birth date, physical address, telephone number, Internet service
provider, IP address and credit card numbers.
After a 2003 raid on Kahre's business, Kahre and several of his workers
sued Damm, two Internal Revenue Service agents and others who were involved.
That civil matter is pending.
In 2007, Kahre sued Damm and agents of the FBI and IRS, alleging criminal
behavior. U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra dismissed the complaint in
December, and Kahre appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Two years ago, Damm prosecuted a similar tax case against nine defendants,
including Kahre. The trial ended with no convictions and four acquittals.
Five defendants were partially acquitted, and two of them were dropped from
the indictment that generated the current case.
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Las Vegas Review-Journal,_http://www.lvrj.com_