Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Judge Questions DOJ’s Media Policy In Case Against Infowars Host

Owen Shroyer

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s move last month to limit Justice Department probes of journalists is facing an early test from an unlikely source: a federal judge overseeing a criminal case against a talk-show host on Infowars, a right-wing website known for touting discredited conspiracy theories, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In an order made public Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui said prosecutors refused to answer on the record whether they had complied with the department’s updated media policy when seeking a warrant to arrest the talk-show host, Owen Shroyer, for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“The events of January 6th were an attack on the foundation of our democracy,” the judge wrote. “But this does not relieve the Department of Justice from following its own guidelines, written to preserve the very same democracy.”

Prosecutors had provided enough evidence to warrant Shroyer’s being put on criminal trial, Judge Faruqui wrote, but they wouldn’t lay out their reasons for determining that Mr. Shroyer wasn’t a member of the news media.

“The Department of Justice appears to believe that it is the sole enforcer of its regulations,” the judge concluded. “That leaves the court to wonder who watches the watchmen.”

Last month, Garland limited federal prosecutors’ ability to obtain records of reporters’ contacts when investigating government leaks of sensitive information. “A free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy,” the attorney general said at the time, as he curtailed a longstanding practice that President Biden and others had criticized.

The memo also said the prohibition didn’t apply to members of the news media who were under investigation for activities outside “the scope of newsgathering.”

In an affidavit for the arrest of Shroyer, who hosts “The War Room With Owen Shroyer,” a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent said Shroyer had spoken about stopping the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College win and had entered a restricted area on the west side of the Capitol during the Jan. 6 assault by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump. The FBI agent said Shroyer’s alleged actions violated laws that prohibit knowingly entering any restricted grounds without authorization.

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