On Wednesday morning, attorneys for the Santa Barbara News-Press will be heading to the Santa Barbara Courthouse in an attempt to retrieve a hard drive that contains an astonishingly criminal amount of child pornography. They want the illegal material because – as reported in the controversial, front-page News-Press story on Sunday, April 22 that named former editor Jerry Roberts as the one-time owner of that computer – the newspaper’s management and attorneys are hoping to determine who downloaded all that porn.

The move is being opposed by the City of Santa Barbara, because it’s usually frowned upon to return illegal material to its owner. Furthermore, the Santa Barbara Police Department and the District Attorney already investigated the matter thoroughly – employing, according to the cops, one of the state’s high-tech forensics experts. They concluded that because the computer was purchased as a used device, because it was not password protected, because there are no time stamps on the material, and because other editors before Jerry Roberts used the machine, it’s essentially impossible to determine who downloaded the pornography.

But the News-Press is pushing forth for the sake of the children, according to an editorial that was posted on their website late one night last week but taken down before the morning. (See more reports on that ghost editorial – which also called the cops “lax” in their investigation and said that “they blew it,” took aim at The Indy for referring to the images as “kiddie porn,” and asked “What message does all this [legal wrangling by the city] send to the child pornographers who right now are in our community committing these crimes?” – at Blogabarbara and Craig Smith’s Blog.)

Many Santa Barbarans are simply not buying the News-Press‘ righteous claims, however. These folks, many of whom were behind the Operation Cold Shoulder and Wake Up Wendy Wednesday rally, see Wednesday’s legal move simply as a means to link former editor Jerry Roberts to the scourge that is child pornography. The newspaper’s owner Wendy McCaw is currently suing Roberts for $25 million, so there’s no shortage of theories as to why she may want to vilify him. Roberts, of course, denies all claims, has sought an official retraction via his attorneys, and is currently determining whether he can file a libel suit against the News-Press or not.

Explained the rally organizers, “Many people believe that this so-called news article, with no author credited, was published by the News-Press to ruin Roberts’ reputation as part of a continuing lawsuit where the News-Press is suing him for $25 million. The News-Press demand for the computer hard disk, through a court action, appears simply to be a ruse and an insulting distraction because such images are illegal contraband and law enforcement authorities cannot allow them to be possessed by anyone.”

So as a response, on Wednesday, May 2, from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m., there will be “a demonstration of community outrage” at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, under the large arch on Anacapa Street. The rally will be comprised of Jerry Roberts’ supporters as well as those who are simply angry at the state of the News-Press, a newspaper that was once required reading in Santa Barbara but has since experienced a precipitous decline in staff, massive drop in news coverage, and, as reported earlier today, a “plunge” in circulation. Protest signs are encouraged, and the organizers are also asking the rally-goers to hold up a the latest cover of The Santa Barbara Independent, where we asked the question, “Have You No Shame, Mrs. McCaw?”

For more info on the half-hour rally, send an email to operationcoldshoulder@gmail.com.


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