When a major journalist breaks a gun law in the nation's capital on national TV in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers at home, you'd think it would be pretty much an open-and-shut case to prosecute. But when Meet the Press host David Gregory did just that last December -- displaying on-air an empty 30-round magazine during an interview segment with the NRA's Wayne LaPierre -- he got off scot-free when the District of Columbia failed to prosecute. The relevant law on the books in the nation's capital calls for a $1,000 fine and a year in prison for any civilian who possesses a ammunition magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.
Two months later, annoyed with the District of Columbia for failing to answer her questions pertaining to the case, pro-gun rights opinion columnist Emily Miller of the Washington Times filed a freedom of information request. On Friday, Miller updated readers by noting how the District has been stringing her and other conservative bloggers along when it came to producing documents related to the Gregory investigation (emphasis mine):
Since D.C. officials refused to turn over any documents about their investigation and decision not to prosecute NBC News’ David Gregory, we have to depend on the Freedom of Information Act to force transparency. Mayor Vincent Gray’s office, however, responded to my request by deflecting. It turned out, he was hiding information.
On March 11, I sent a detailed request to FOIA Officer Mikelle DeVillier in the Executive Office of the Mayor. I asked for all documents about Mr. Gregory’s possession of an illegal 30-round magazine. Government agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within 15 working days.
Ms. DeVillier used every hour of that time frame, responding to me on April 1. “These are not the type of documents generally maintained by the Executive Office of the Mayor,” she wrote. “Based upon the information requested, and my familiarity with the various District agencies, this request would be more properly directed to [Metropolitan Police Department] and the [Office of the Attorney General].”
This appeared to be just passing the buck, but the next part made me realize the agencies were all in cahoots.
“However, it has come to my attention that this request was also previously submitted, by you, to the aforementioned agencies.” Ms. DeVillier wrote. “It is my understanding that MPD and OAG will respond to your FOIA request.”
In fact, the FOIA requests to the two agencies and the mayor’s office asked for different documents. I deliberately sent them separately to see if one would hand over a document that another would not and to track who was in communications with NBC and its representatives.
I replied to Ms. DeVillier the same day. “It does not answer my request to know if the mayor's office has any documents related to this case. Has his office been in contact with NBC, OAG or MPD on any of the matters listed in my request?”
She did not respond.
On April 22, I emailed again: “I’ve waited three weeks for you to respond to my last email, so I know whether I need to escalate this request.”
Six hours later, she responded with a second FOIA letter, this one containing new information that she had attempted to hide on the first round.
Ms. DeVillier reiterated that the information I wanted would come from the police and the prosecutor, then added: “However, at your request, an additional search was conducted within [the mayor’s office] that yielded electronic mail documents responsive to your request.” But, this new discovery was still being withheld from the public.
The mayor refused to turn over three emails between his spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, and the communications office staff due to the “deliberative process.” Claiming attorney-client privilege, he did not turn over three email chains between his chief of staff, Christopher Murphy, and D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan and two email chains between Mr. Nathan, Mr. Murphy and the Mr. Ribeiro.
George Lyon, a D.C. firearms attorney, said the mayor’s excuse not to release the documents was suspect. “Attorney-client privilege is invoked for communications between an attorney and client for legal advice. The mayor’s claim of attorney-client privilege on correspondence relating to Gregory would mean he received legal advice from OAG. That would make sense only if he had a role in deciding whether to prosecute Gregory.”
The Legal Insurrection blog has been trying to get all the documents surrounding the David Gregory case for almost six months. The blog’s lead author William A. Jacobson told me that his FOIA requests have not been fulfilled. Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the city on behalf of Mr. Jacobson’s legal blog.
“We want to know who did what and when as to obtaining the illegal ammunition magazine, the full details of the investigation culminating in the presentation by MPD of a warrant and supporting affidavit,” Mr. Jacobson told me. The Cornell law professor also wants the city to hand over “all communications internally and with David Gregory’s attorneys culminating in the decision not to prosecute."
There's more and you can read it here, but you get the gist.
The bottom line is that the liberal mayor's office seems to have something to hide. It's quite possible Mayor Gray (D) leaned heavily on prosecutors to NOT go forward with a prosecution of the NBC anchor, perhaps in large part because Gregory violated the D.C. law in the service of political speech calling for a similar high-capacity magazine ban on the federal level. Yes, Gregory broke the law, but it was in service of the sort of ineffectual and freedom-restricting gun laws that D.C. has on the books and stringently enforces against residents who are not as well-heeled or politically connected as a liberal national journalist.
Kudos to Miller and other bloggers who are battling to get the full story behind why Gregory was not prosecuted and to what extent political connections had to play.