U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena for CNN footage quashed in criminal case against Capitol rioter

Incident Details

Date of Incident
July 25, 2022

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of the subpoena issued to CNN seeking approximately two hours of raw footage from an interview with a Capitol Police officer in connection with the criminal trial of a Capitol rioter.

July 25, 2022

CNN was served a criminal trial subpoena on July 25, 2022, by a defendant facing charges stemming from his alleged participation in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The subpoena, which sought approximately two hours of raw footage from an interview with a Capitol Police officer, was subsequently quashed.

According to court filings reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, defendant Kyle Fitzsimons is facing an 11-count indictment and is accused of having attacked multiple law enforcement officers near the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace.

CNN broadcasted an interview with two Capitol Police officers on June 4, one of whom is believed to have been assaulted by Fitzsimons. The subpoena — which was issued on July 20, 2022, and served five days later — requests “any and all raw footage” from the officer’s interview.

According to CNN’s motion to quash the subpoena, the officer does not mention Fitzsimons by name and Fitzsimons does not appear in any of the footage.

CNN attempted to narrow the request for only the telecast footage but Fitzsimons’ counsel declined. The outlet did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

The outlet’s Aug. 10 motion to quash argued that the subpoena was a “fishing expedition,” and that Fitzsimons has no reason to believe that the outtakes from the interview will help his defense when the alleged acts were captured by Capitol surveillance cameras and the officers’ body cams.

“Allowing speculative discovery of the press here, on the basis that an unsworn statement in unpublished newsgathering information might theoretically become useful to the defense for purposes of impeachment, would expose a host of media organizations to similar speculative subpoenas in similar January 6 prosecutions,” the motion stated. “That would undeniably chill news reporting about this topic of clear national importance — the ‘violent breach of the Capitol’ that ‘was a grave danger to our democracy.’”

District Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled in favor of CNN on Aug. 14, finding that while Fitzsimons was able to specifically name the material sought, he failed to justify the request with more than hopes of what might be found in the outtakes.

Fitzsimons’ trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 16.

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