NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and his team say court documents related to a TBI search of Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk's offices should not be released to the public because that information could compromise their investigation.
NewsChannel 5 recently filed a motion to unseal the documents, arguing that it was in the public interest to know about the investigation of a sitting DA. Funk later joined that motion, saying he needed to know more about the investigation in order to attack the validity of the search and possibly to report Skrmetti for ethical violations.
Referring to NewsChannel 5's parent company, Scripps Media, Inc., Skrmetti argues: "Funk and Scripps fail to demonstrate that the public and the supposed target of the investigation are entitled to unfettered access to materials in an ongoing criminal investigation."
As NewsChannel 5 previously reported, the AG's response confirms that the search of Funk's offices on March 24 was the result of a warrant issued by Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Cheryl Blackburn. Funk had previously suggested to the media that TBI agents came there following his "invitation."
To obtain a search warrant, agents must convince a judge that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime can be found in the place that they want to search.
Skrmetti's response expresses concern about potential retaliation against witnesses who provided evidence in their investigation of Funk and his office.
"It is common for the subjects of criminal investigations to go to extreme lengths to identify investigators' sources. It is also common for courts to rebuff those efforts," the filing argues.
Keeping such information confidential, the AG continues, "is settled because courts universally recognize the harm that can be caused — to witnesses, to confidential informants, to targets of investigations, to the government's ability to conduct investigations, and to the criminal justice system as a whole — by the public release of information about an ongoing investigation."
Skrmetti's office sent a letter to Funk on Feb. 10, demanding the preservation of evidence as part of a criminal investigation into possible violation of wiretapping laws.
That followed a NewsChannel 5 investigation that raised questions about the installation of microphone-equipped cameras around the DA's offices that were capable of secretly recording conversations of individuals who did not know about the listening devices.
In addition to the wiretapping concerns, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has also revealed:
- Funk paid a part-time employee $75,000 per year with little evidence of what that man did for the money.
- Evidence uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates appeared to conflict with timesheets that the employee submitted for the money.
- Employees of the DA's office used government resources and worked on Funk's re-election campaign last spring, in some cases taking the time off only after NewsChannel 5 began investigating.
- Photos and emails appeared to show office resources being used to investigate Funk's political opponents.
Funk has consistently insisted that no laws were broken.
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