OTR Interviews

Could a NY newspaper be successfully sued and forced to take down 'gun maps'?

A police association group wants the Journal News to take its gun map off the web. Could a lawsuit be successful?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 15, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: New York law enforcement officers have a warning for the newspaper that published a map locating gun owners. They say if ex-cons target police officers listed on that map, The Journal News will have blood on its hands.


ROBERT BUCKLEY, AFFILIATED POLICE ASSOCIATION OF WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY: Do you think that some of these criminals may feel they want to retaliate against those officers or the officers' family? You are damn right some of them may want to retaliate, and The Journal News's -- that's right, The Journal News's -- decision to place the names of these officers on line with the ability to search through an interactive map, that they have made the job of a criminal that much easier.

We are here today to inform The Journal News that you have placed the safety of every active and retired law enforcement officer and their family in jeopardy. We will -- we will -- hold you accountable for your actions!


VAN SUSTEREN: Robert Buckley is the vice president of the Affiliated Police Association of Westchester. He joins us. Good evening, sir.

BUCKLEY: Good evening, Greta. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. I heard your very forceful press conference, and I'm curious. One of the things that you've been quoted as saying is that you call the publisher of the newspaper, The Journal News, a hypocrite. Why is she a hypocrite?

BUCKLEY: Janet Hassan is an extreme hypocrite. For the last few weeks, different folks in the media have been trying to interview her and ask her why did she put this list up in the newspaper. Janet has refused to respond to any of the media outlets and even have a discussion with anybody.

This is amazing to me that you have a publisher of the Gannett newspaper who doesn't even give the press two minutes to speak to them and try to justify why she would place an interactive map on line.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, in light of where we are in this, you know, what is it that you would like her to do? I guess take down the map for starters, right?

BUCKLEY: Well, we called on them today -- all law enforcement groups, retired and active members, have requested that The Journal News pull down the interactive map immediately. It is placing the danger -- it is placing the lives of our members, active and retired, in danger. And it's also placing the general public in danger who own gun permits.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I take it -- just like the publisher won't talk to the media, I take it the publisher is not taking your calls or your representatives' calls to give an explanation about whether she will take it down or won't take it down or why she won't take it down, if she won't.

BUCKLEY: The irony is I have reached out to her. I have not received a phone call. She has sent her reporters to our press conference. I did give her reporters the respect of answering their questions, which maybe, maybe I shouldn't have, but I did, and -- because we hold ourself to a higher standard. We would like her to take down the list immediately, and that's out -- that's our request.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm curious, what kinds of questions were asked of you by her reporters?

BUCKLEY: Well, the irony of her reporter today was we basically read a statement I don't remember verbatim, but basically told the "Journal News" we're placing you on notice that if any criminals, ex-cons show up at any of our members' homes and there's an incident, that we will hold the "Journal News" accountable. So, her reporters said, what do you mean by holding us accountable? He was obviously trying to bait me. And I told him, we will pursue any legal remedies available to us to go after the "Journal News" and the "Gannett News."

VAN SUSTEREN: New York State Governor Cuomo today signed a new law, the package of gun control laws. I'm curious whether or not you think this was a -- this is a good law or not a good law.

BUCKLEY: To be quite honest with you, I think it just got signed into law a couple of hours ago. There's a portion of the law that we do support, wholeheartedly. We've been pushing for legislation that would make it illegal for the Gannett newspaper and other news media to request by virtue of Freedom of Information Act to get the names of law enforcement officers from the county clerks who own gun permits. And that is in that legislation.

So, effective immediately, I would request that the "Journal News" take that list down, because they are breaking the law effective this afternoon when Governor Cuomo signed that legislation or signed that into law. So they need to start following the law and pull down their interactive map immediately.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bob, thank you.

BUCKLEY: Thank you very much for the time.

VAN SUSTEREN: And ever since the "Journal News" published that interactive map, some police officers are saying they are scared for their families, correction officers are being taunted by prisoners, and one gun owner's home has been burglarized. So should the newspaper be worried about a lawsuit?

Joining us our legal panel in San Francisco, former prosecutor Michael Cardoza, and here in Washington, defense lawyers Bernie Grimm and Ted Williams. Bernie, people always say can you sue? Of course you can sue. It's whether or not you're going to be successful. But I'm curious whether this newspaper should be concerned that they're going to be hit with something.

BERNIE GRIMM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No. It's freedom of the press. They win every day and twice on Sundays. The can put it out there. I understand there's harm in this, and the gentleman seems very sincere and very bothered by it, and if I was a police officer I wouldn't want my address out there, especially with all the folks I represented. But you're just not going to get there. There's know proximate cause. The two guys that burglarized the house, there's no evidence they even read the newspaper. My guys don't want to go into a house where there's a gun. They don't want to be there. They want to be there or somebody is on vacation, somebody's at the movies, you go in, grab the jewels and cash, get out. They don't want to be in a gunfight.

VAN SUSTEREN: Michael, he said he wants to hold them accountable if something happens. What does it mean, "hold accountable"?

MICHAEL CARDOZA, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Like he said, whatever is legally available to them. Sue them for wrongful death if someone should get killed.

But here is the question I have and here is what begs the question. This list gets put out. And to me, it's not very well thought out by the newspaper. But they put a list of gun owners out. Did they put next to those names, "this is a police officer"? Or did the police, by doing this, alert the entire nation that police officers are on that list so all of us can now go, if we're after a police officer, go to the list police and go, oh, he let's see is Officer Smith on this list? Oh, here he is. Now, let me go after him. So, could the police not have done it a different way? If in fact they weren't listed as cops on that list and just as a gun owner. So, just a question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, and let me just say so I can bail you out, if I think some viewers think, you're the not suggesting that the police did anything wrong, but rather may have inadvertently stepped in something. I take it you're not blaming the police.

CARDOZA: Absolutely, no, no, not blaming the police at all.


CARDOZA: What I'm saying they may or should have gone about it differently than draw a big red circle around this and go, hey, everybody, cops are on that list.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll disagree with you, but let me go to Ted first and I'll tell you why.

CARDOZA: Fair enough.

TED WILLIAMS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Michael, I clearly disagree with you. What is happening, these law enforcement that are active and inactive law enforcement have found that some of these criminals have come to them in penal institutions and represented that they had their addresses and with some specificity even gave the law enforcement officer or the correction institution officer their address. So this is very alarming to these people. They have a right to be afraid.

The thing about it is, shame, shame on this newspaper. Yet, you have a first amendment right and nobody's trying to abridge that right, but there are limits even to the First Amendment. And you don't go about giving out individual's private information.

VAN SUSTEREN: My thought on this, the cow out of barn, it's already published. The newspaper, their name is now mud. People are trashing the power of the media because the media has been very responsive in terms of publicizing this story. And I think it's interesting that the publisher doesn't come out and talk about, you know, why the publisher hiding. He doesn't want to hide who the gun owners are and I'd like to hear from the publisher and interview the publisher, that's called fat chance. And I'm taking the last word. Gentlemen, thank you.

Today the state of New York, as we noted, is just passing the nation's toughest guns restrictions and the sirs since the Connecticut school shooting. The NRA is outraged at the law. It includes an expanded assault weapons ban and mandatory background checks for buying ammunition. The NRA firing back, calling the gun control law "draconian" and accusing Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York lawmakers making a secretive end run around the legislative and democratic process. The NRA saying the law will have no impact on public safety or crime.