A sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina posed as a Newsweek reporter to coax an anonymous source out of a local newspaper journalist, and it worked, reports the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The deputy got The (Jacksonville) Daily News reporter Lindell Kay to hand over the phone number of a source in a high-profile homicide case, leading to criminal charges against an intern in the local district attorney’s office.
Intern Robert Sharpe is charged with embezzlement and larceny, accused of offering to sell the undercover deputy confidential records from a 6,000-page file he’d been told to photocopy. The Onslow County Sheriff’s Department tactic stunned the newspaper and Newsweek. “It’s unacceptable and inappropriate for anyone to pretend to be a reporter,” Newsweek attorney Steve Fuzesi said, “but even more inappropriate for a law enforcement person to use that as a tool — if the allegations here are true.” “North Carolina has the reporter’s shield law,” Daily News executive editor Elliot Potter said. “I feel like our sheriff’s department, instead of upholding the law, by targeting us in an undercover operation, circumvented the law” at least in spirit.