Government asked to explain why it unsealed implicating sworn statements

Updated: January 4, 2008, 8:38 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Hearst Corp. wants the federal government to explain why it unsealed a sworn statement containing names of players implicated by former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski after telling a court the information had to remain secret.

In a four-page brief filed Friday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Hearst said the government "may have been violating the very same sealing order it was defending" when it gave former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell permission to publish the names of players accused of using performance-enhancing drugs by Radomski. Hearst contends they were the same names contained in the affidavit of IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky.

When Novitzky's Dec. 2005 affidavit was initially made public in April, names of the players he implicated were blacked out. Hearst, on behalf of the San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union, went to court in June asking that the complete affidavit be made public.

The U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco and the Major League Baseball Players Association opposed the request, and in September U.S. District Judge Thomas C. Platt in Central Islip ruled there was no public right to the names.

On Dec. 21, eight days after Mitchell's report on drug use in baseball was released, the government unsealed the affidavit. A day earlier, it unsealed another Novitzky affidavit in Arizona involving pitcher Jason Grimsley.

Although the government now says keeping the names secret no longer is necessary because Radomski's cooperation was substantially complete, Hearst said the government told the district court the statement should be kept secret because it needed cooperation of those named in the affidavit.

Hearst and the MLBPA also are upset they never had the chance to respond to the motion to unseal the affidavit.

"This represents yet another instance of the government playing fast and loose with the courts and the rights of others," Hearst said.

Hearst wants the case sent back to district court for the government to explain why it didn't give notice of its motion to unseal and "to account for the disparity between its representations to the court."

"The public's right of access cannot coexist with government efforts to limit or control disclosure of judicial records through means of selective disclosure, much less where premised on representations that cannot be squared with the facts," Hearst said.

Calls to the U.S. attorney's office and a lawyer for the MLBPA were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press