Attorney seeks records from McAllen newspaper, TV stations in lawsuit

The Monitor
Originally published May 6, 2014

McALLEN — An attorney who filed a civil lawsuit against Gamehaus Gastropub wants records from The Monitor and five local TV stations about a fatal shooting outside the popular bar Jan. 31 — including all interview notes, video footage and photographs from news reporters.

Attorney Efrain Carrera requested records from The Monitor and the five local TV stations April 17. The Monitor is fighting the request and, through its attorney, filed a motion to block the request Monday.

“The Texas Legislature passed into law the Free Flow of Information Act precisely to avoid legal actions such as this one,” said Monitor Editor Carlos Sanchez. “The Monitor must and will fight subpoenas like this to ensure that we maintain the journalistic privilege that lawmakers saw fit to give us in the interest of keeping citizens informed.”

Lawmakers designed the Free Flow of Information Act to protect journalists from revealing confidential sources or unpublished information, including interview notes and video that wasn’t broadcast. Making that information readily available to attorneys for civil lawsuits would have a chilling effect on journalism, and may ultimately harm the public by hampering the newsgathering process.

Carrera didn’t return a call requesting comment Monday. He represents the family of 24-year-old Danny Avila — his parents, ex-wife and three children — who died after the Jan. 31 altercation. They have filed a civil lawsuit against Gamehaus, alleging negligence and demanding damages exceeding $2 million.

Along with The Monitor, Carrera also requested records from journalists with KGBT-TV, commonly called Action 4 News; KRGV-TV, commonly called Channel 5 News; KNVO-TV, commonly called Noticias 48; KFXV-TV, commonly called Fox Rio 2; and KTLM-TV, commonly called Telemundo 40. Apparently Carrera wasn’t interested in KVEO-TV, which also covered the incident.

The request included: “any and all documents regarding the subject incident, including but not limited to accident reports, correspondence, field and office notes, files, photographs, videos, witness statements (written or recorded), drug and alcohol tests and screens, interviews, drawings and calculations,” related to the incident.

Carrera requested the records by Saturday. The Monitor filed a motion to quash the request Monday, but no TV stations had filed similar motions by Tuesday afternoon.