U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Former University of Arizona coach convicted of assault subpoenas reporter who covered his case

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 16, 2018
Tucson, Arizona

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
Excerpt of subpoena to Caitlin Schmidt
July 2, 2018 - Update

Subpoena quashed

On July 2, 2018, an Arizona judge quashed the subpoena.

May 16, 2018

On May 16, 2018, attorneys for Craig Carter — a former assistant coach at the University of Arizona who was convicted of assault in March — subpoenaed Arizona Daily Star reporter Caitlin Schmidt, seeking all records of Schmidt’s communications with both the woman that he assaulted and with the woman’s attorneys.

The woman, Baillie Gibson, is currently suing Carter and the University of Arizona in civil court, alleging that Carter conducted a nonconsensual sexual relationship with her for years and then attacked her in his office when she tried to end the relationship.

On March 30, Carter was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault, including one with a deadly weapon. On May 14, he was sentenced to a five year prison sentence for assault, to be served concurrently with an 18 month prison sentence for a second count of assault and concurrent sentences for stalking and violating a protective order. 

Caitlin Schmidt, a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, has extensively covered Gibson’s allegations against Carter, writing more than two dozen articles about the case.

Gibson’s civil lawsuit against Carter and the university remains active, and on May 16, attorneys for Carter and his wife filed a subpoena with the court seeking records of any communications that Gibson and her attorneys had with Schmidt. (Carter’s attorneys also filed an identical subpoena to the Arizona Daily Star, Schmidt’s newspaper.)

The subpoenas demand that Schmidt and the Star hand over:

1. All Documents and Communications relating to any conversation, interview, or other interaction between You and Cadigan Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Michael J. Bloom, P.C., The Carrillo Law Firm, P.L.L.C., and/or the law firm of Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, or between You and any attorney(s) or other employees(s) employed by or associated with any of the foregoing, specifically including but not limited to Lynne M. Cadigan, John C. Manly, Jennifer E. Stein, Morgan A. Stewart, Michael J. Bloom and/or Erin Carrillo, at any time on or after April 29, 2015, particularly including but not limited to emails, text messages, phone records, voicemails, call logs, Pictures, and Video.

2. All Documents and Communications relating to any conversation, interview, or other interaction between You and Baillie Jean Gibson at any time on or after April 29, 2015, particularly including but not limited to emails, text messages, phone records, voicemails, call logs, Pictures, and Video.

Subpoena to Caitlin Schmidt

Schmidt told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that this was the first time she had ever been subpoenaed as a result of her reporting.

“Last Wednesday, I was talking to my courts editor, and my news editor came in and handed me a subpoena for all communications with the victim in the case and any of her attorneys dating back to 2015,” she said. “I haven’t even been covering it for that long and it was any and all notes or emails or videos or photos any, any communication, any notes on the case. So it was pretty broad. It didn’t specify exactly what they were looking for, it was just ‘any and all.’”

“I don’t know if it’s an effort to bog us down with paperwork, or in the court, or to prevent me from writing stories, or if they really are seeking my information,” she added. “But under the current law that’s not information we’re going to provide them with.”

On June 5, Daniel Barr — an attorney at Perkins Coie who represents Schmidt and the Star — filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that Arizona law protects journalists from having to hand over the kind of information sought by the subpoenas:

For more than a year, Ms. Schmidt, a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, has been reporting on and covering the relationship between Craig Carter, a former University of Arizona assistant track coach, and a female-student athlete, Baillie Jean Gibson, including allegations that Mr. Carter assaulted Ms. Gibson. Mr. Carter was ultimately criminally convicted of assaulting Ms. Gibson and pled guilty to other felony counts arising out of his conduct in the relationship. Now, in this related civil suit, the Carters, through their attorney, seek to uncover any communications that Ms. Schmidt and any “other person or entity currently or formerly affiliated in any way with the Arizona Daily Star” [see attached subpoena to Arizona Daily Star, Ex. A, ¶ 1] may have had with Ms. Gibson and Ms. Gibson’s lawyers in the course of reporting for the Arizona Daily Star. Specifically, the Subpoenas demand that Ms. Schmidt, the Arizona Daily Star and anyone else “affiliated in any way” with the Star produce all “documents and communications” between: (1) themselves and certain named law firms and attorneys who have purportedly worked for Ms. Gibson; and (2) themselves and Ms. Gibson.

The Carters, however, are not entitled to these materials. Instead, the Subpoenas must be quashed because the affidavits accompanying them do not satisfy the Media Subpoena Law, A.R.S. § 12-2214, which “protect[s] members of the media from burdensome subpoenas and broad discovery ‘fishing expeditions’ that would,” as here, “interfere with the ongoing business of gathering and reporting news to the public.” Matera v. Super. Ct. In & For Cty. of Maricopa, 170 Ariz. 446, 448, 825 P.2d 971, 973 (App. 1992).

Motion of Star Publishing, Inc. and Caitlin Schmidt to Quash Subpoenas Duces Tecum

Barr further argues that the records sought by the subpoenas are wholly irrelevant to the case. 

“There is no possible relevance of any statements between Ms. Schmidt or anyone else ‘affiliated in any way’ with the Star and Ms. Gibson’s attorneys, who are not, and cannot be, percipient witnesses to any of the issues in this case,” he writes in the motion to quash. “The Subpoenas amount to nothing more than a speculative ‘fishing expedition.’”

In an interesting wrinkle, the state of Arizona is the one paying for Carter’s fishing expedition against Schmidt and the Star. 

Carter was still an employee of the University of Arizona at the time the civil case was filed, so he has been indemnified by the Arizona Department of Administration, which continues to cover his legal bills. On May 27, the Star reported the state of Arizona has so far paid law firm Munger Chadwick more than $1 million to defend Carter in the civil suit.

Schmidt said that she is confident that she and the Star will defeat the subpoena.

“It sounds like we have a strong case, if it’s not quashed we continue to fight it,” she said. “I have no intention of turning anything over, but if in fact it is deficient and they haven’t provided that justification then I think we’ve got a good shot. The Star is firm that we will protect all of our sources, all of the time. This isn’t something we will bend to, we don’t give up information like this.”

Barr echoed Schmidt’s confidence.

“Neither the Star nor Caitlin Schmidt will be delivering documents to anyone,” he said in a statement. “We intend to get the subpoena quashed by the trial court.”

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