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7/28/2001

Judge hears arguments in fight over Ramsey documents

The Associated Press

DENVER — The Boulder County District Attorney’s Office is fighting a subpoena from the New York Post seeking access to reams of documents from the JonBenet Ramsey investigation.

U.S. District Judge Walker D. Miller heard arguments Friday about whether the district attorney’s office should turn over files associated with the 6-year-old’s 1996 slaying. He asked the sides to come up with proposals on how a review of the documents could be limited.

The district attorney’s office said the request is too broad and would force the agency to conduct a burdensome review of tens of thousands of documents, some of which contain information privileged because of the ongoing investigation into the unsolved slaying.

“They are seeking to go through every single record in the JonBenet investigation and decide on their own what they need,” said Andrew Macdonald, representing the district attorney. “We can’t just allow them to come in with a copy machine and start sorting through the files.”

The newspaper said it needs to review the documents to defend against a defamation lawsuit John and Patsy Ramsey filed over a Post article linking their son, Burke, to his sister’s death.

The newspaper argued against limiting the review of the documents to a time period ending when the article was published in May 1999.

“In the defamation action, truth is a defense,” Post attorney William Leone said. “It is conceivable to me that fresh information might be relevant.”

During the hearing, the judge raised the possibility of using an independent counsel to review the documents to alleviate concern that the newspaper might abuse some sensitive materials.

“It is a legitimate concern whether your client has an ulterior motive,” Miller told Leone. “It would seem that if you were a news organization, and you would be able to get a scoop on the JonBenet Ramsey investigation, you would get a lot of attention.”

Meanwhile, the Ramseys ’ $4 million libel suit against the Post, filed in May 2000, is pending in federal court in New York. The lawsuit claims the Post falsely alleged that Burke killed JonBenet, that he was the prime suspect in her killing and that his representatives were “in secret plea-bargain negotiations” with the prosecutor.

Post Publisher Ken Chandler has said the Ramseys ’ case was frivolous.