U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Prosecutors subpoenaed citizen journalist cellphone during investigation

Incident Details

Date of Incident
November 17, 2017
Laredo, Texas
Case number
Case Status
Type of case

Subpoena/Legal Order

Third Party Business
Telecom company
Legal Order Type
November 17, 2017

Webb County prosecutors carried out subpoenas related to an investigation of Texas-based blogger and citizen journalist Priscilla Villarreal on Nov. 21, 2017, according to complaint filed in Villarreal’s ongoing civil lawsuit against the city of Laredo, Webb County, and a number of law enforcement officers.

According to court records filed in May 2019, Villarreal claims county prosecutors signed off on subpoenas, including one directed at her cellphone, while she was under investigation after she revealed the name of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection employee who died by suicide by jumping from a Laredo overpass in 2017.

Authorities said Villarreal obtained the employee’s name from a Laredo police officer and revealed it on her Facebook page before law enforcement published the name to the public, in violation of state penal code. Villarreal was arrested in December 2017 and charged with two third-degree felonies for “misuse of official information.”

Villarreal filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Laredo and Webb County in April 2019 and as of Nov. 1, 2021, the case is ongoing.

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