Pittsburgh Paper Asks Court to Unseal Sting Records

Inky will join Tribune-Review in seeking judge's order for openness.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has asked a Dauphin County judge to unseal records in the abandoned sting operation that caught Philly Democrats on tape taking cash from a confidential informant.

That paper reports:

The motion filed by Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky, a Downtown Pittsburgh law firm representing the Trib, said the case “represents a matter of substantial and legitimate public interest and concern.”

“Why shouldn’t the people make their own decision about who is telling the truth in this case, rather than rely on politicians to characterize the information?” said Trib Managing Editor James Cuddy Jr. “People ought to know whether their lawmakers are crooks.”

The Inquirer, which originally broke the story, says it will join the Trib with a coalition of other papers:

A broader coalition of news organizations, including The Inquirer, is expected to file a similar motion Wednesday in a move that Inquirer Editor William K. Marimow said was aimed at defending a “bedrock principle.”

“The more that citizens can learn about the nature of the undercover operation and the attorney general’s rationale for sealing the records, the better off citizens will be in terms of an informed public,” Marimow said.

The Philadelphia Daily News; the Associated Press; the Morning Call, in Allentown; the Patriot-News and PennLive.com, in Harrisburg; Lancaster Newspapers, the publishers of the New Era and Journal; the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and NBC10 have agreed to join with The Inquirer in a bid to make the material public. The Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition also is expected to join in the filing.

The Inquirer revealed last month that Attorney General Kathleen Kane had abandoned the sting; she said the investigation was undermined by its use of the confidential informant and by its focus on black lawmakers. She has threatened a defamation suit over the paper’s reporting.