FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

More Secret Payments by Former New York Times Reporter to Web Porn Star Surface in Nashville Courtroom

Nashville, Tennessee.

A federal court house in Nashville today was witness to the ironic spectacle of lawyers for former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald pleading with federal district judge Aleta Trauger to shield her courtroom proceedings from the public by keeping under seal all documents and submissions and having legal arguments about these requests for secrecy also conducted privately in her chambers.

Judge Trauger denied these requests, remarking that the public and the press have a right to know. The subsequent proceedings in the courtroom strongly suggest why Eichenwald’s lawyers tried to keep a lid on the proceedings.

Both the New York Times and its former reporter were embarrassed earlier this year by the disclosure that Eichenwald had paid his prime source for a sensational 2005 story about web porn the sum of $2,000 even before actually meeting this source, Justin Berry.

Berry is the young man who posted masturbation videos of himself on the net when he was a minor — then, after turning 18, became a criminal by making and distributing porn using other underage teens.

After the $2000 check surfaced New York Times public editor Byron Calame wrote a fierce piece in the Times stigmatizing Eichenwald’s rationales as “baloney”. Calame’s unsparing column included this passage:

“I should have told my editors,” Mr. Eichenwald wrote of the $2,000 transaction, which he said had simply slipped his mind. “Once the reporting began … a financial transaction from a month before … just slipped away amid the 18 hour days, seven days a week of turmoil and chaos.”

We learned in court today that it was not just a matter of one $2,000 payment (which Eichenwald says was repaid by Berry’s grandmother). Eichenwald used a fake name and address to give Berry even more cash before he started working on the story. It seems these covert payments also slipped Eichenwald’s mind, even when jolted by the sight of his $2,000 check to Berry which surfaced in evidentiary proceedings in a Michigan courtroom earlier this year.
During the time he received Eichenwald’s money, Berry revived an inactive sex site by posting freshly minted child porn images.

The new details have emerged here because Eichenwald’s blockbuster 2005 Times story led to arrests and convictions of four men who had helped Berry with his child porn site, even as Berry received prosecutorial immunity. Lawyers for one convicted man, Tim Richards, have continued looking into hard-drive evidence for material to lessen Richards’ prison time when he is sentenced in a few weeks, or to support a motion for a new trial.

While looking into the hard drives, Richards’ lawyer Kimberly Hodde told federal court Judge Aleta Trauger on Tuesday, investigators discovered that in May or June 2005, someone calling himself Andrew McDonald used PayPal to send money to Berry from Dallas. “McDonald” used a Yahoo address, and one from AOL that the FBI earlier identified as Kurt Eichenwald’s. Dallas is Eichenwald’s home.

In court, Richards’ lawyers explained that they subpoenaed PayPal and got back a fake snail-mail address and two credit card numbers used to make the “Andrew McDonald” payments. They then subpoenaed the credit card companies to find out the real name of the person who owns the cards. They also subpoenaed AOL and Yahoo.

In response, Eichenwald’s personal attorney Bruce Perkins filed motions to quash the subpoenas and seal all filings related to the motions – including that they’re about Kurt Eichenwald. The former Times reporter’s name was even blacked out of the only documents posted on the DoJ’s federal court case website that are unsealed.

Tim Richards’ attorney Hodde argued that the subpoenas should not be quashed because the information they ask for is relevant to Richards’ sentencing. The Paypal payments, Hodde asserted, point to the possibility that Eichenwald “assisted in orchestrating the revival” of Berry’s illegal, child porn website. Richards, Hodde said, will use the PayPal and credit card information to argue that he was entrapped by Berry and his cohorts, one of whom, Richards will argue, was Eichenwald. Eichenwald’s lawyer Perkins dismissed Hodde’s arguments as “conspiracy theories.”

Judge Trauger kept the court open to the public and used Eichenwald’s name many times. She turned down motions to quash the subpoenas. She said payments Eichenwald made to Berry were not previously known to the press or the government, and they have “some relevance to the defense.” She said she will consider the new evidence when she sentences Richards, because the timing of Eichenwald’s payments to Berry is “so close to some of the timing involved in this case.”

Trauger also refused to keep Eichenwald’s voluminous filings sealed. They will be opened to review in a few days, after they’ve been redacted to remove his credit card numbers.

Tim Richards’ DOJ prosecutor, Carren Doughtrey, attended the hearing, and so did FBI agent Brook Donohue. When asked by this reporter if Eichenwald is under criminal investigation on child pornography-related charges, Donohue said, “I can’t tell you.” “We’re not supposed to comment,” said Doughtrey.

CounterPunch left phone messages with Eichenwald’s former Times editor, Larry Ingrassia, asking if the Times knew about Eichenwald’s pseudonymous PayPal transactions with Berry. Ingrassia has not thus far responded. Challenging the secrecy bid of Eichenwald’s lawyers at today’s hearing was Douglas Pierce, a Nashville attorney acting for CounterPunch.

DEBBIE NATHAN is a New York City-based journalist who writes about sexual politics and immigration. She can be reached at naess2@gmail.com

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail