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Government asked to explain why it unsealed implicating sworn statements

1/4/2008 - MLB

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.