Republicans seek probe into secretly recorded calls

By Chris Rizo | Nov 5, 2009

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Republicans in the California state Legislature say they want an independent prosecutor to head an investigation into the secret taping of conversations with Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Before resigning this week, Brown's communications director, Scott Gerber, admitted to tape recording conversations with journalists.

Gerber's controversial practice came to light after he admitted to recording a call between Brown, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter and three Brown aides.

In his resignation letter, Gerber said Brown and other California Department of Justice officials had no knowledge of the recordings.

California is one of 12 states that require notification of all parties before a phone call is taped.

"Given the disturbing nature of these crimes and the far-reaching implications, we urge you to act swiftly and judiciously to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the matter and clear your office of these crimes," said a letter signed by state Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Sen. George Runner R-Lancaster.

Gerber admitted to recording an interview last Wednesday with The San Francisco Chronicle's seasoned political reporter Carla Marinucci, who interviewed Brown for a story about criticisms of revisions he made to the ballot summary of a proposed measure on car insurance rates.

After the story was published on the newspaper's Web site, the Chronicle reported that Gerber contacted an editor at the newspaper to complain and e-mailed the editor a transcript of the conversation.

Among other things, the Republican letter said legislators want to know who knew the recordings were being made and who transcribed the recordings.

"Since it is your office that has broken the law and is involved, we feel it appropriate that ... an independent prosecutor be appointed to look into the improprieties and determine who had knowledge and who was involved," the letter said.

In a statement, Brown's office said no crime had been committed.

"According to the Department's highest-ranking criminal lawyer, the evidence that has surfaced thus far does not constitute a crime," said Brown's press secretary, Christine Gasparac. "Penal Code section 632 prohibits one from recording a confidential communication without consent. All of the recordings that have surfaced were on-the-record, not confidential, and involved multiple participants."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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