Lawyers for Hearst Corp. claimed federal prosecutors provided baseball steroids investigator George Mitchell the names of players implicated in drug use by former New York Mets clubhouse employee Kirk Radomski.
In a brief filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, N.Y., Hearst said prosecutors attempted to “skirt the issue” when they said they did not give Mitchell a complete copy of a sworn statement signed by IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky. In the version made public, names of up to 23 players were blacked out.
The Albany Times Union and San Francisco Chronicle, which are owned by Hearst, said in previous court papers that if prosecutors gave Mitchell the names, they must be made public. In the latest filing, Hearst said the government gave Mitchell the information without supplying the exact document.
“These distinctions are without significance,” Hearst said. “The government has shared with Mitchell the player names redacted in the search warrant affidavit and does not deny it.”
Prosecutors say disclosing the names would jeopardize an ongoing investigation. The Major League Baseball Players Association also has fought the move to disclose names.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas C. Platt has not yet decided whether to schedule a hearing on the request to unseal the names.
In a separate case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward C. Voss was to hear oral arguments Thursday in Phoenix federal court on an application by The Associated Press to release names of players implicated in a Novitzky statement used to obtain a search warrant for the home of former major league pitcher Jason Grimsley.
Hearst said a claim by prosecutors that newspapers wanted the names released for financial gain was “scurrilous and irresponsible.”
“‘Trust us. You have enough information on this subject.’ That is what the government tells the court, the newspapers and the public,” Hearst said. “The government seeks from this court a blank check to decide what satisfies the constitution and serves the public interest. The government’s view of the law and the public interest is sorely misguided.”
Hearst said release of the names is mandated by law.
“Why is it that the government seeks to protect famous professional athletes from deserving public scrutiny — not to mention prosecution — in the name of keeping its ‘options’ open for potential ‘offshoot’ investigations involving small-time dealers like Radomski?”‘ Hearst said. “This is the same question raised by the government’s prosecution of a handful of unknown dealers in the BALCO case while zealously safeguarding the identities of professional and Olympic athletes who violated federal drug laws in addition to virtually every rule of sport. …
“How does it serve the children who emulate those athletes and the parents who warn them away from steroids? It is not only the players who did business with Radomski that deserve scrutiny, it is the prosecutors that would protect them who deserve scrutiny, too.”