A city councilwoman in this small Pierce County town agreed to give up a restraining order she obtained against a weekly newspaper and the city after the state attorney general’s office intervened on the newspaper’s behalf.
The restraining order, approved by a Pierce County court commissioner June 21, barred the Nisqually Valley News of Yelm from publishing stories about drug-related charges against Councilwoman Anja Alston. It also barred the city from releasing documents concerning her case.
The attorney general’s office intervened in the case Friday, saying the retraining order was clearly an unconstitutional restraint on free speech, and Alston agreed to its dismissal. The newspaper has obtained the records it sought.
Jacqueline Rosenblatt, a senior assistant attorney general, called the decision “very unusual. It’s always inappropriate to restrain newspapers from publishing what they have,” Rosenblatt said.
“It’s not something that happens everyday,” said Keven Graves, the newspaper’s editor and general manager. “But I was expecting it to come to a head with Roy because of the way they have been with our public records requests.”
Roy is a town of about 870 people.
Alston has been charged with rendering criminal assistance and obstructing a public servant in connection with a drug investigation. She is accused of warning a friend that the police were investigating him and that he should “watch his back.”
Alston pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges several weeks ago. The newspaper published a story about her pleas June 10.
On June 21, Alston sought the restraining order.
“I am innocent of these charges until proven otherwise by a court of law,” she said in her request. “The Nisqually Valley News seeks to use information in the police report to cause me immediate, substantial and irreparable damage to my reputation within the community.”
She added that releasing the records “would clearly not be in the public interest.”
Daniel Smith, a Pierce County pro tem court commissioner, approved the restraining order, which the newspaper received by fax that day.
The attorney general’s office got involved after being contacted by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association about the case.