U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Chicago CBS affiliate ordered to turn over unedited interview footage

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 12, 2020
Chicago, Illinois

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of the subpoena issued to CBS2 President and General Manager Derek Dalton on Feb. 12, 2020, seeking unedited audio and video recordings of his interviews with a woman suing the City of Chicago and multiple police officers.

February 12, 2020

A federal judge ruled on Aug. 3, 2020, that WMMB-TV CBS2 President and General Manager Derek Dalton must comply with a subpoena for communications and unedited audio and video recordings of interviews with a woman who alleged Chicago, Illinois, police officers illegally raided her home.

In 2018, investigative reporter Dave Savini created a series of stories for the CBS affiliate, highlighting allegations that the Chicago Police Department conducted illegal searches of residents’ homes. In one segment, Savini interviewed South Side resident Ebony Tate, who filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Chicago and a group of police officers after a mistaken 2018 search on her home. According to the Chicago Tribune, body camera footage captures officers openly questioning if they had the right place.

CBS2 received two subpoenas — one for Dalton and the other for Savini — from lawyers for the officers on Feb. 12, 2020, seeking any and all notes, documents and communications related to interviews with Tate and five other interview subjects. The subpoena also demanded “outtake” footage, or recordings that were not released to the public, from the interviews.

CBS2 objected to the subpoena on Feb. 26, and on Aug. 3, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert of the Northern District of Illinois denied the outlet’s bid to block it.

In Gilbert’s ruling, he disagreed with CBS that producing the requested materials placed an “undue burden” on the station, finding that the unedited footage and other statements by Tate are “at the very heart of this litigation” and “clearly relevant” to the claims in Tate’s civil rights lawsuit. The recordings were made with the expectation that they might be shown to the public, Gilbert said, without expectation of anonymity.

The judge did quash the portion requesting off-camera and unpublished communications between CBS2, Savini and the interviewees.

CBS2 declined to comment on the ruling or whether the station would file an appeal. Al Hofield Jr., who represented Tate in her federal suit, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in an email that federal law tends to have fewer protections for journalists’ sources than state shield laws, and he felt the judge followed the law.

Lawyers for the officers named in Tate’s lawsuit, who issued the subpoenas, did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].