Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prosecutor: Fax Targeting Officials Not Threatening

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prosecutor: Fax Targeting Officials Not Threatening

Article excerpt

The so-called threatening fax that county officials gave as the reason for seizing a security-camera videotape from a Kinko's store doesn't appear threatening at all, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch said Thursday.

The fax, sent anonymously, criticizes high-ranking county officials. County Executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall has called the fax threatening to the county employees it targets.

McCulloch said one of his prosecutors wrote out a subpoena so police could get the videotape for a grand jury. A grand jury never saw the case and never knew about the subpoena, McCulloch said. The criminal investigation was dropped quickly - as soon as county officials learned the names of the whistle-blowers. "It was determined almost immediately that there wasn't anything (criminal) there to pursue," McCulloch said. The Kinko's videotape showed who was in the store when the fax was sent last month. Police played the tape to two top county officials. They identified two vocal critics of the county. One, a county employee, was later forced to resign. McCulloch said he doesn't believe his office or police were used to help the county catch the whistle-blowers. "I'm not sure we were used," McCulloch said. He said prosecutors and police acted "absolutely appropriately" because they believed they were investigating a threat. Westfall, a former prosecutor, defended using a criminal investigation to find who sent the fax. "It is in fact, at least technically, a crime - not murder or armed robbery - but it is a crime, and it was very simple to obtain the tape and find out who was on the tape," he said. A fax that "threatens or disturbs" someone is just as illegal as a harassing phone call, Westfall said. The state law that makes harassing phone calls a misdemeanor doesn't mention faxes. "We construed that to include faxes," Westfall said. On Thursday, McCulloch said it was obvious to him that the one-page fax contained no criminal threat. "I don't see any threat in it," he said. "If I received it, I would not feel threatened." The fax alleges improper behavior by a member of Westfall's cabinet - Judith Parker, director of the Human Services Department - and one of her senior employees, Michael Baker. …

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