In what should send a frightening chill down the spine of every blogger, writer, journalist and First Amendment advocate in the United States, Phoenix police raided the home of a blogger who has been highly critical of the department.
Jeff Pataky, who runs Bad Phoenix Cops, said the officers confiscated three computers, routers, modems, hard drives, memory cards and everything necessary to continue blogging.
The 41-year-old software engineer said they also confiscated numerous personal files and documents relating to a pending lawsuit he has against the department alleging harassment – which he says makes it obvious the raid was an act of retaliation.
Maricopa County Judge Gary Donahoe signed the search warrant that allowed at least ten cops to raid his home in North Phoenix on March 12 while handcuffing his female roommate for three hours as they tore the place apart.
Pataky, who was out of town on a business trip during the raid, also believes police were retaliating against him for the content of his blog, much of it which comes from inside sources within the department.
“They broke into my safe and took the backups of my backups,” he said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime on Wednesday.
“I can’t even file my taxes because all my business plans are gone. They took everything.”
The search warrant lists “petty theft” and “computer tampering with the intent to harass” as probable causes. He has yet to see an actual affidavit that lists in detail the probable cause and is skeptical that one even exists.
“They say everything has been sealed,” he said.
The conflict between Pataky and the Phoenix Police Department began two years ago during “a nasty divorce” after moving out of the house he had shared with his wife. His said she was not taking the divorce too well and began filing false allegations against him accusing him of stalking and harassing her.
Many of the reports she filed accused him of doing things when he was out of town, he said.
So he began filing complaints with everybody from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon down to Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris to no avail. He was eventually indicted for harassing his ex-wife.
A month before the trial, he and a few friends launched the website as a rant against the police department. When he went to trial in May 2008, his charges were immediately dismissed because of lack of evidence, he said.
“We were going to shut down the website after that but then all of a sudden all these good cops started hitting the site and sending us tips,” he said.
He said they would also deliver all kinds of internal documents from within the department exposing everything from a cop with multiple DUIs to another cop whose son was a child molester and was trying to get on the force (and was eventually arrested).
“We have about 50 to 100 retired and active cops who provide us information,” he said.
Police apparently believe one of the tipsters is an officer named David Barnes, who fell out of favor with the department in 2007 when he was a detective and went public with claims of mismanaged evidence at the city crime lab.
Police also raided Barnes’ home and according to Pataky’s inside sources, plan to raid the homes of more cops.
Police have been extremely vague about the nature of the raids, according to the arizona republic.
Police officials said Wednesday that a Phoenix detective prompted the investigation after complaining about harassment, though they declined further comment…
Phoenix Assistant Chief Andy Anderson said the harassment case is unique because of the connection to an unaccredited grassroots Web site. He said the blog is one part of the case, though he did not provide specifics of the ongoing investigation.
“This isn’t about the blog,” Anderson said. “That’s just where the investigation led.”
The allegation of “petty theft” against Pataky stem from photos he posted on his blog of police name plates that appear to have been taken from within the department. He said he actually made the plates himself.
The allegation of “computer tampering with the intent to harass” obviously has to do with his no holds barred criticism of the department.
Pataky, who has since purchased a new laptop, is taking the raid in stride and has added it to the allegations in his pending lawsuit.
And he has not let it stop him from blogging.
“They thought they were going to scare us into a corner but they just made us stronger.”
Update: Below is the leaked memo from Phoenix City Attorney Gary Verburg advising Phoenix police that a litigation hold has been placed on the Pataky case, meaning all documents relating to the case must be preserved under legal obligation. The memo also recommends officers to “exercise caution and discretion” when discussing the case electronically.
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