Washington Post Denied Records of Sex Probe

     WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge refused to shed light Thursday on whether authorities looked at a D.C. businessman’s sex life while investigating his role in the shadow campaign of former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
     The ruling by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell came days after Jeffrey E. Thompson received a three-month prison sentence for campaign-finance violations.
     Back in 2014, Thompson pleaded guilty to having funneled $3.3 million in illegal contributions to 28 election campaigns, including Gray’s 2010 mayoral bid.
     Over the past few months, however, the Washington Post has reported that Thompson’s credibility issues put a wrench in prosecutors’ efforts to mount a related case against Gray.
     Citing confidential witnesses, the Post said investigators looked at whether Thompson had sex with underage partners, and whether he gave “young men” money and gifts to hide sexual relationships.
     A protective order governs investigative materials on Thompson, but the Post told has been pushing to Judge Howell unseal documents in his case since February.
     Though government released almost 1,000 pages of warrant materials related to the investigation public this past April, the Post said its recent findings now require the release of “ancillary investigations” into Thompson’s sexual preferences.
     “According to the Post’s reporting, the investigation of this separate personal conduct ultimately influenced the USAO’s charging decisions in relation to the Campaign Finance Investigation and, as such, was ‘plainly critical to the progress and outcome of’ that investigation,” Howell wrote.
     Howell rejected the demand Thursday, saying that the new releases would delve into uncharged allegations against private citizens.
     “In short, the Post’s effort to obtain additional disclosure by means of its acknowledged right of access to search warrants issued under the Campaign Finance Investigation amounts to little more than bootstrapping,” Howell wrote. “Even assuming the public maintains a First Amendment right to search warrants issued in closed, non-public investigations, the Post’s submissions in support of its request for further disclosure readily demonstrate that any additional unsealing likely would significantly infringe upon the personal due process, reputation and privacy interests of individuals implicated in those materials and would likewise raise the substantial probability of harming important law enforcement interests.”
     Unsealing the records of an investigation that returned no indictment could irreparably harm the reputations of innocent individuals, and goes against “the most basic protections of our criminal justice system,” Howell ruled.
     “The mere fact that these separate investigations coincided with the Campaign Finance Investigation, and may even have affected the course and resolution of that investigation, has no bearing on the reputation and due process interests at stake in the requested disclosure,” Howell wrote.
     Howell also determined law enforcement interests weighed against releasing the details of the second batch of search warrants, saying releasing such sensitive information could hurt the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s ability to work with confidential informants in the future and that redactions could not do enough to protect confidential identities because of the media’s intense focus on the case.
     “Indeed, much as anonymity serves to ensure potential witnesses are free to provide information without fear of reprisal, preserving as secret intimate details of an individual’s personal life and conduct helps to ensure that witnesses are willing to step forward to assist important criminal investigations,” Howell wrote.
     “The Post’s present request, however, turns this basic intuition on its head,” she continued. “In the Post’s view, it is precisely because an individual may serve as a witness against a high-profile defendant that the public maintains an interest in other, unrelated investigations that may have a bearing on the witness’s credibility.”

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