Seattle police drop effort to get protest images from media

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Police Department will withdraw a subpoena requiring five Seattle news organizations to give them unpublished news videos and photos taken during racial injustice demonstrations May 30 that investigators argued would help them solve arson and theft cases.

In a motion filed with the state Supreme Court Monday, lawyers for police said an ongoing appeal by The Seattle Times and four TV stations would delay release of any news images until next year, and noted a recent arrest in one of those cases.

As a result, the department decided to drop the subpoena and not seek enforcement of an earlier court order granting access to the images, The Seattle Times reported.

The decision effectively renders meaningless a closely watched legal battle pitting free press protections against the power of police investigations.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement Monday the subpoena “was about trying to recover dangerous weapons. The urgency of getting this evidence collided with the more ponderous processes of our judicial system, and the process won out.”

Eric Stahl, who represents the five media companies, said Monday that what Holmes is “calling a `process’ is actually an important protection for journalism, free speech and the public’s right to know.”

“And fortunately in this case,” Stahl said, “the process worked.”