Court Denies ‘SB News-Press’ Request for Return of Child Porn Computers

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By: Joe Strupp

A Superior Court judge on Wednesday turned down a request by owners of the Santa Barbara (Calif.) News-Press to require police to return two computers containing child pornography, according to the Santa Maria Times.

“This is our property,” News-Press attorney Barry Cappello claimed before Superior Court Judge James Brown finalized a tentative decision to deny the request by Ampersand Publishing, owners of the News-Press.

The judge honored Cappello’s request to extend to 120 days an order that the Santa Barbara police department not be allowed to destroy the evidence, the Times wrote.

Police obtained the hard drives after computer technicians hired by Ampersand found thousands of pornographic images on the drives. The paper has sought to link the images to former editor Jerry Roberts, who led a resignation in July 2006 of several newsroom leaders in a protest of News-Press owner Wendy McCaw. Since that incident, nearly 40 staffers have quit or been fired from the paper.

Roberts has denied any connection to the images, which the newspaper wrote about in a front page story 10 days ago that said the computer had been used by Roberts. He has said others had used the computer.

Cappello argued Wednesday that the paper wants to perform its own tests on the equipment to find out who may have put the images on the computer.

“At least several other editors besides Roberts, who has called the story ‘false, defamatory and malicious,’ also apparently used the computer,” the Times wrote. “It has also been widely reported that the News-Press bought the hard drive used, and the images could have been on the hard drive when it was purchased.”

City Attorney Steve Wiley told the Times that the FBI is also investigating the computer records.

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