Journalist Michael Patrick Leahy vows to fight for free speech after threat from judge for reporting on Nashville trans shooter manifesto

"I think we have served the public well, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to exercise our First Amendment rights."

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Michael Patrick Leahy, editor and owner of The Tennessee Star, appeared in court on Monday for a "show cause hearing" to address why he should not be held in contempt for publishing parts of trans Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale’s writings, which he obtained from a source.  Leahy, along with other outlets, had sued for release of the documents but were denied. The FBI, as well as the family members of the three children and three adults who were killed in the shooting, have worked to prevent the release of the writings.

Speaking to The Post Millennial, Leahy said he beleived, based on a memo he reviewed, that the FBI indicated to the Nashville Police Department that they were at liberty to destroy the writings left behind by Audrey Hale. He said that the FBI, in the memo, said that the writings should "never be released" and that their reasoning was that it could encourage others to undertake the same kind of atrocity, that it could cause false narratives to form or "cause difficulties" for certain groups, such as LGBTQIA+ persons.

In suggesting that the documents could be destroyed, the FBI mentioned a precedent for the destruction of those documents which was the destruction of the so-called "basement tapes" left behind by the Columbine killers. "In other words," Leahy said, "the FBI is reminding the Nashville police chief that if he wants to destroy legacy documents, there's precedent for destroying them."

This memo makes it all the more clear why Leahy and the others who sued to have the documents released believed so strongly in the need to get them into the public eye. Leahy has been publicizing the documents and publishing them over the past few weeks. Outside the courtroom, he praised the decision to not hold him in contempt.

"First thing to say, I just love the state of Tennessee. It’s a great state and my family and I have lived here for 30 years. The people are kind, the people are nice," Leahy said in a statement after the hearing. "The governance is just and measured. We started the Tennessee Star so I could exercise my First Amendment rights. I think we have served the public well, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to exercise our First Amendment rights."

According to the Daily Wire’s Brent Scher, the judge in the case appeared "to have backed off the threat" to hold Leahy in contempt for publishing the leaked documents. Chancellor I'Ashea Myles of Davidson County ordered Leahy’s court appearance on June 10.

"On Monday, June 10, 2024, this Court received a media call requesting comment or a statement from the Court regarding The Tennessee Star’s, which is owned and operated by the Petitioner, Star News Digital Media, Inc., of which Petitioner, Michael P. Leahy, is Editor-in-Chief, alleged publication of certain purported documents and information that this court has in its possession for in camera review in this matter," the order stated.

"Based on the foregoing, this Court sets a Show Cause hearing to determine why the alleged publication of certain purported documents by Petitioners Star Digital Media and Michael Leahy, as the Editor-in-Chief, does not violate the Orders of this Court subjecting them to contempt proceedings and sanctions."

A February order from the judge stated that "Any supplemental filings, declarations, and/or affidavits filed by the Parties and/or Amici or sought to be filed by the Parties and/or Amici containing any direct information, no matter how obtained, which is the subject matter of this case SHALL NOT be filed with the Court but SHALL BE submitted for in camera review following the procedures delineated in this case."

The order later added, "Any efforts to usurp the Orders of this Court by any Party, Counsel and/or Amici regarding the matters currently under in camera review shall be sanctioned to the fullest extent of the law, including contempt of Court."

On Wednesday, Leahy's attorney Daniel Horwitz filed an emergency motion arguing freedom of the press and state law violations. The judge denied the motion in a Thursday order.

"With due respect to the Court, this Court's show cause order: (1) violated Tenn. Code Ann. § 24-1-208(a), Tennessee's shield law; (2) contravenes Tenessee's contempt law; (3) deprives Mr. Leahy of minimum due process guarantees; and (4) suffers from other serious constitutional infirmities," wrote Horowitz.

The attorney argued that the judge’s order was not clear in terms of the order or provisions that Leahy violated, as she did not specify the nature of the show cause hearing.

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