The Department of Justice (DOJ) backed down Friday from its effort to block YouTuber and writer John Crump from distributing a confidential court document he obtained from the defendant in a gun case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor initially sought to require Crump to destroy any copies he obtained of a presentence report from the case of Auto Key Card owner Kristopher Justinboyer Ervin and YouTuber Matthew Hoover, who were found guilty in April on charges of conspiracy and the illegal transfer of machine gun conversion devices. Before the DOJ withdrew the motion, Crump, who runs a firearms news YouTube channel and writes for AmmoLand News, argued the order violated the First Amendment.
“Taking a page straight from Orwell’s 1984, the United States of America has asked this Court to take a blowtorch to the First Amendment, and impose a prior restraint on a non-party’s publication and dissemination of information contained in a nonclassified, nonprivileged, nonsensitive criminal Presentence Report (“PSR”),” Crump’s lawyers said in a Wednesday court filing. “The government seeks this extraordinary type of order based on a representation that disclosure of the PSR violates a Department of Justice (‘DOJ’) ‘policy’ (but apparently no law or legal precedent) which forbids its dissemination under any circumstance.”
“Of course, even if there were some DOJ rule that restricted a defendant’s dissemination of such a document, it has no application to a non-party journalist’s use of the document to inform and educate the public,” the filing continues.
Ervin sold “novelty” small metal cards with the outline of a “lighting link” — a device used to convert semi-automatic AR-15 rifles into fully automatic machine guns — which prosecutors said should have been registered under a federal law that treats conversion devices like machine guns, even though the device would have to be cut out to be usable, according to the Florida Times-Union. Hoover, who was later added to the case for promoting the cards, provided the presentence report to Crump on Aug. 3, according to the DOJ’s motion.
“We are grateful to our legal team for their quick and decisive efforts to block this gag order on Second Amendment reporter John Crump, who is a good friend of GOA,” Erich Pratt, Senior Vice President of Gun Owners of America, which filed the motion on Crump’s behalf, said in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “This assault on freedom of the press was unacceptable, and we were proud to help in blocking the government’s attempt to censor John’s reporting.”
“Sadly, this is par for the course with the Biden DOJ, as they are hellbent on attacking the constitutional rights of anyone who disagrees with them,” Pratt continued.
Taylor argued the PSR’s distribution “serves no legitimate purpose and rather appears to be aimed at generating vitriol,” according to the original motion.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard said during the Friday hearing that there isn’t “any legal authority that would have supported that request,” according to the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida declined to comment.
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