Woody Creek writer alleges DEA retaliating over column
ASPEN – A Woody Creek writer could have to show he was acting in the capacity as a media member if he wants to avoid testifying before a grand jury later this month.Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration issued Michael Cleverly a court subpoena Tuesday at his home. He is due to appear in front of a federal grand jury on July 25 as part of a witness-tampering investigation, launched after an Aspen Times article reported on an email that had been circulating with the photo of an alleged confidential source who provided integral information to the DEA’s probe into a drug ring believed to have spanned between Los Angeles and Aspen. Cleverly received the email, which has the subject line “contract is out … I’m offering $2 for the skin, dead or alive.” The Times subsequently reported on the email, originally sent to eight people, and interviewed Cleverly for an article published June 27. No other recipients of the email were interviewed for the article. Now it appears the DEA wants Cleverly to disclose the name of the person who sent the email. Cleverly said he refused to provide the DEA members, when they visited his home Tuesday, with the sender’s name. He was then served with a subpoena, which also requires him to bring his computer’s hard drive to court the date of his scheduled appearance.The DEA won’t comment on the investigation. The Aspen Times contacted its Denver law firm, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP, on Wednesday about the Cleverly subpoena. The law firm and this newspaper are currently evaluating how to proceed on the matter. Journalists oftentimes are protected by shield laws when it comes to disclosing their sources. For the purposes of this article, First Amendment attorney Steven Zansberg said Colorado shield laws do not protect Cleverly because the subpoena is for his appearance before a federal grand jury. “But the First Amendment privilege would apply, assuming Cleverly received the e-mail message in his capacity as a reporter/author/journalist,” Zansberg wrote in an email to the Times.Cleverly, for his part, said he received his email for his work as a journalist. He points to a guest column he wrote for the Aspen Times Weekly – “Aspen old-timers, drug enforcement and God” – published May 29. Cleverly’s piece took a critical view of the DEA’s May 19 arrests of six Aspen-area residents on cocaine trafficking charges, opining that “the DEA types act like they’re on a mission from God, exactly the same as that preacher who thought the world was going to end on May 21.”Once a regular writer for the Aspen Times Weekly before stepping down two years ago, Cleverly said he believes the DEA is retaliating against him for the column he wrote by serving him with the subpoena. Cleverly’s writing rsum includes a collaboration with Bob Braudis, Pitkin County’s sheriff of 24 years until January, on the book “The Kitchen Readings: Untold Stories of Hunter S. Thompson.” Cleverly also writes for the website thevileplutocrat.com.”If they want to find out who sent this email, I’m sure there’s a thousand in this valley who have that email by now,” Cleverly said. “If the narcs want to find someone else who gave them the name, open up the phone book and start calling.” The agents who came to Cleverly’s home were David Storm, who works in the Glenwood Springs DEA office; Jim Schrant, resident agent in charge at the Grand Junction office; and Paul Pedersen, a Glenwood Springs police officer, special DEA task force member, and an officer with the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team. Pedersen and Storm apparently worked closely with the confidential informant, who is a woman. Both testified in detention hearings for some of the defendants in the case, including 65-year-old Aspen man Wayne Alan Reid, whom officials say was a key player in the alleged cocaine trafficking organization. The confidential informant, according to testimony from Storm during a May 28 hearing in Los Angeles federal court, “was able to provide accurate, detailed information that led to the seizure of $116,000,” from Reid during a traffic stop in July 2010. The source also relayed to the DEA that Reid’s primary source of cocaine was 70-year-old Alfonso Elvio-Allocati of Los Angeles, who’s among the 10 defendants a federal grand jury indicted on April 19. The arrests were made May 19. During that May 28 identity hearing for Elvio-Allocati, the defendant’s attorney asked Storm: “Was this defendant a paid informant?”The judge presiding over the hearing upheld a federal attorney’s objection to the question.Legal documents and testimony from a June 14 hearing in Denver’s federal court also indicate the confidential informant was a female who provided evidence implicating Reid and Christopher Sheehan, 65, of Snowmass. Both are in federal custody in Denver without bond.Feds allege that the network funneled more than 200 kilograms of cocaine from Los Angeles to Aspen over the past 15 years. All six local suspects have pleaded not guilty to the charges, as have three defendants in the Los Angeles area. One defendant out of L.A. remains a fugitive.The confidential informant evidently had immediate access to Reid, and twice took pictures of the cocaine Reid allegedly packaged, according to court testimony. She turned the pictures over to the DEA, according to June 14 court testimony from Pedersen. The informant also witnessed on seven different occasions Sheehan allegedly buying cocaine from Reid, Pedersen email@example.com
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