An interview with Suge Knight conducted while he was behind bars has landed two television producers in the crosshairs of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
According to court documents obtained by The Blast, sheriffs seized the phone of a producer named Nora Donaghy related to her work on an upcoming BET documentary series, "Death Row Chronicles."
Donaghy and another Entertainment One Television producer, William Erb, were also served with grand jury subpoenas.
According to Erb, he was first contacted last fall by "a man who identified himself as an investigator for the sheriff's department." He says the man told him "that he 'knew' that eOne had done an interview with Suge Knight, who was in jail, and that Mr. Knight violated the law by talking to eOne."
Erb says he had no idea the interview was illegal. He also claims that during the call, he was not informed of his rights and was never advised to talk to a lawyer.
On January 17, Erb says two detectives showed up at his home and served him with a grand jury subpoena.
The next day, according to her declaration, Donaghy claims two law enforcement officers wearing homicide badges showed up at her home. She says she was "shocked and terrified" to see the officers because she hadn't been contacted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office or the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department until that moment.
Donaghy claims she was served with a search warrant that required her to hand over her cell phone. She says the officers asked her for the passcode, which she provided, and asked her to unlock the phone in their presence to confirm the passcode worked.
"Believing I had no alternative," Donaghy says in her declaration, "and frightened by the unexpected arrival of two 'homicide' officers at my home, early in the morning, I gave them my iPhone and the passcode and showed them it worked."
Donaghy says she was told she would receive the phone back the next day, but she says she has yet to hear back from the detectives and has not yet received her phone. She says her phone "contains unpublished editorial information" not just about "Death Row Chronicles," but other journalistic projects as well.
"Some of this information is highly sensitive," she says, "and if revealed or leaked, could bring grave harm to some of my sources and contacts. I consider the information on my cell phone to be confidential and private."
She says the warrant was searching for communications between her and Suge's fiancée, Toi-Lin Kelly, his attorney, Erb, and a showrunner for "Death Row Chronicles."
Donaghy was also served with a grand jury subpoena. She says she believes the subpoena "intends to elicit my testimony about communications I may have had with or about Mr. Knight and/or his representatives, and in particular, any information identifying the individual(s) responsible for facilitating an interview between eOne and Mr. Knight."
Cameron Stracher, an attorney for eOne, says in his declaration that he spoke with a detective on the case before the subpoenas were served. Stracher says the detective never informed him the subpoenas were forthcoming and claims the detective "reiterated that no one was accusing Mr. Erb or eOne of any wrongdoing."
Both Erb and Donaghy claim that if they are called to appear before a grand jury, they will assert their rights under California's Shield Law and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and will "not disclose any of my sources of information or unpublished information obtained in the course of gathering and disseminating information to the public."
Kelli Sager, an attorney representing the producers, filed a motion on Monday to quash the subpoenas and to have Donaghy's phone returned. She is also seeking a protective order barring the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department from serving additional subpoenas and search warrants.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for this morning, January 23, and we will update this story accordingly.
Knight is currently behind bars awaiting trial for the murder of former business associate Terry Carter.