Posted: October 31st, 2010 by Militant Libertarian
I posted here last year on Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Treadway’s vendetta against pain patient advocate Siobhan Reynolds. Reynolds’ transgression was to publicly question Treadway’s prosecution of Kansas pain specialist Steven Schneider and his wife.
Treadway, no slouch at playing the media herself, first sought a gag order preventing Reynolds from criticizing the state’s case in public. She then sent federal agents to intimidate the patients speaking out on Schneider’s behalf. When all that failed, shelaunched a grand jury investigation into Reynolds, demanding Reynolds turn over a mountain of documents related to her advocacy. Treadway then sought, and was granted, an extraordinary seal on any and all documents related to the case. Reynolds isn’t permitted to share documentation from her case with anyone. She had to get permission just to let Reason and the Institute for Justice access the documents so they could submit an amicus brief on her behalf.
Reynolds’ case has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and the government is claiming some chilling powers. Here’s my colleague Jacob Sullum:
This level of secrecy, which the Associated Press says “has alarmed First Amendment supporters” who see it as “highly unusual” and “patently wrong,” is clearly not justified by the need to protect the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings. The 10th Circuit decided to seal even the Reason/I.J. amicus brief, which is based entirely on publicly available information. More generally, the gist of the case could have been discussed without revealing grand jury material, as Reynolds’ Supreme Court petition shows. Although the court-ordered redactions make the 10th Circuit’s reasoning as described in the petition hard to follow at times, the details generally can be filled in with information that has been reported in the press (which shows how silly the pretense of secrecy is). Furthermore, one of the main justifications for grand jury secrecy—that it protects innocent people who are investigated but never charged—does not apply in a case like this, where the target of the investigation wants more openness and it’s the government that is trying to hide information. As Corn-Revere argues, such secrecy turns the intended role of the grand jury on its head, making it an instrument of oppression instead of a bulwark against it….
I’d like to show you the Reason/I.J. brief defending Reynolds’ First Amendment rights, but I’m not allowed to!
Bonus points in this case for its ability to attract bipartisan authoritarianism: Treadway is a Bush appointee, and this all got rolling under his watch. But the Obama administration is not only continuing the case against Reynolds, it’s also arguing in favor of keeping the case hidden from public scrutiny. There are no national security implications, here. There are no government informants to protect (I guess we don’t know that for sure, but I can’t imagine why there would be, or why their names could be redacted). This is an obstruction investigation into a woman who has criticized the government for what she feels are wrongful prosecutions. It’s telling that Treadway, a federal prosecutor with a history of promoting the hell out of her cases, doesn’t want to anyone to know about this one.
But let’s recap: Treadway tried to censor Reynolds from criticizing her, Treadway, a federal prosecutor. She then tried to intimidate patients of the doctor Reynolds was advocating for from defending him. She then retaliated against Reynolds with a criminal investigation. And she has now gagged Reynolds and barred the public from knowing anything about that investigation. And thus far, on the latter two actions, the federal courts have backed her up.
This is scary stuff.