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The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash., is asking a judge to rethink his decision not to allow the release of photographs--from a gay-oriented Web site--found on the city-owned laptop computer of recalled mayor James E. West. West was recalled from office last week by a nearly 2-1 margin on an abuse-of-office charge. The recall election came seven months after the newspaper began publishing a series of articles detailing his trolling of gay Internet chat rooms.
On November 17, Adams County superior court judge Richard Miller ordered the release of an index of the dates and times West used the computer to access Gay.com and similar Web sites, but with individual Web addresses redacted to protect the privacy of third parties. The court said disclosure of the specific addresses "may result in identification of individuals who have an expectation of privacy" due to a user agreement with Gay.com.
In a recent legal filing, attorneys for the newspaper argued that pictures and profiles found at Gay.com are posted by individuals who have no expectation of privacy on the Web site and, in fact, want others to see the information. The newspaper sought the information under the state's Open Records Act while investigating rumors that West was visiting a gay Internet chat room, offering city jobs and perks to young men in exchange for dates.
The city of Spokane's computer chief, Garvin Brakel, testified that a person who is not a member of Gay.com could not access the personal profiles of those addresses found on West's computer. However, attorneys Duane Swinton and Tracy LeRoy said in their motion for reconsideration that Brakel gave the court incorrect information. "Brakel's understanding of how a person can access profiles on Gay.com is mistaken," the attorneys said in a legal brief filed Friday. They said any member of the public can use a zip code to search for profiles of people whose photographs and personal data have been affirmatively placed on the Web site. "Disclosure to the public of information posted on Gay.com does not reveal anything to the public that is not already in the public domain," the brief said.
The judge is expected to hear arguments on the motion for reconsideration in early January. (AP)