A Spokane television station must hand over to prosecutors its unedited videotape in which an alleged victim of the Wenatchee child sex ring case recanted her revelations, a Douglas County judge ruled.
KREM-TV argued at Wednesday’s hearing that the videotape was covered by First Amendment protections.
But Superior Court Judge T.W. Small said the rights of a free press do not extend to unauthorized videotapes of a minor child when the child’s guardian had not given permission for the taping.
“The importance of protecting a child outweighs the importance of protecting the media,” Small said in ruling late Wednesday.
Lawyers for the television station immediately appealed the ruling to the state appeals court in Spokane.
Small also ruled that the station does not have to turn over other videotapes, notes, memos and telephone logs related to the sensational case. Those items are protected under the First Amendment, he ruled.
Deputy Prosecutor W. Gordon Edgar argued that the county needed to see all the station’s material on the story that was collected between May 31 and June 4.
Edgar said prosecutors do not know what is on the station’s videotapes and other materials.
The videotape is of an interview reporter Tom Grant conducted with a 13-year-old girl at the home of Chelan County Commissioner Earl Marcellus. During the June 3 interview, the girl recanted her earlier revelations about sex abuse.
The girl was the former foster daughter of Wenatchee police investigator Bob Perez, who gathered information in many of the cases.
The girl testified against Pastor Roby Roberson, who was acquitted earlier this year of the sex abuse charges in Douglas County Superior Court.
The subpoena sought all unedited audio and video recordings, notes, memos and logs from any interviews involving the sex ring case conducted by KREM in Douglas or Chelan counties between May 31 and June 4.
Twenty-eight people from the Wenatchee area were charged with child rape or molestation as part of an investigation into alleged child sex rings.
Fourteen people pleaded guilty, five were convicted and charges were dismissed or greatly reduced against six others. Three people were acquitted.