U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter for Tampa Bay Times subpoenaed following investigative report

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 22, 2020
Tampa, Florida

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

An excerpt of security company GardaWorld’s Dec. 22, 2020, subpoena of Tampa Bay Times reporter Bethany Barnes for her communications with a former GardaWorld employee, after Barnes published several investigative reports on the company.

April 18, 2024 - Update

Security company drops subpoena of Tampa reporter

Tampa Bay Times reporter Bethany Barnes was not forced to turn over communications to security company GardaWorld in its suit against a former employee, a Times attorney confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in April 2024.

Starting in March 2020, Barnes published several articles in the Times on GardaWorld’s flawed safety and financial practices. The company subpoenaed Barnes in December as part of an ongoing suit against its former director of risk management, Christine Bouquin, demanding Barnes’ communications with and any documents received from Bouquin and her lawyer related to GardaWorld.

Barnes and the Times objected to the subpoena and filed a motion to quash it on Dec. 31, 2020, arguing that Barnes’ records were protected by Florida journalist’s privilege, according to court documents reviewed by the Tracker.

Times attorney Carol LoCicero told the Tracker via email in April 2024, “I believe the plaintiff obtained the information it wanted from the defendant and never pursued the subpoena.”

GardaWorld and Bouquin jointly dismissed the suit in January 2024, agreeing that any third parties who had received materials from Bouquin related to GardaWorld “shall immediately return or destroy such materials.” Barnes did not respond to a request for comment from the Tracker, so it is unclear whether she complied with this directive.

December 22, 2020

On Dec. 22, 2020, Bethany Barnes, an investigative reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, said she was subpoenaed by GardaWorld, a security services company, for documents relating to a series of investigative reports that revealed irregularities in maintenance and safety protocols at the company.

The subpoena was issued in connection to a 2017 lawsuit by GardaWorld in Manatee County, Florida, against the company’s former director of risk management, Christine Bouquin, whom Garda has accused of stealing company records. According to the Times, the subpoena requested all documents and communications between Barnes, Bouquin and Bouquin’s lawyer, Noel McDonell.

In March 2020, the Times published its first investigative story about GardaWorld, describing how the armored truck service the company operates in the U.S. had been neglectful in the training of its drivers and how maintenance requests made by the drivers had largely been ignored. The report quoted Bouquin, who said she had noticed issues in the company’s maintenance and safety system, and alleged that she was terminated a day after she sent an email to her supervisor about the company’s safety issues.

GardaWorld had threatened to sue the Times if it published its story about the company’s safety issues, according to the Times.

In a second report, published in October, the Times found “that Garda lost track of millions of dollars inside its vaults, then concealed the missing money from the banks that were its clients.” The report alleged that Garda also told its employees to downplay the cost of truck accidents in order to misrepresent the company’s value.

In December, Barnes took to Twitter, writing, “Some news: I have been served with a subpoena today.” The tweet also quoted attorney Carol LoCicero, who represents the paper, saying, “The Times would fight any subpoena that attempts to extract information reporters have obtained during the course of their reporting, and we plan to fight this one.”

The outlet also published an article on the subpoena.

Neither Barnes nor LoCicero responded to a request for comment as of press time.

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