NEW YORK - A federal judge on Tuesday blocked New York City from getting footage gathered by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns in research for his movie about the five men exonerated in the Central Park jogger rape case.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis said the city had failed to show him a concern so compelling to trump the "precious rights of freedom of speech and the press" when it last fall requested outtakes and other materials from the film "The Central Park Five."
The request was connected to a $250 million federal lawsuit filed by the men against the city nine years ago after their sentences were vacated. The attack on a 28-year-old investment banker occurred in April 1989, when she was found in the park after being beaten and raped while jogging. She was in a coma for 12 days and was left with permanent damage. The men were exonerated after a man already jailed for other crimes confessed, and DNA evidence supported his claim.
Ellis rejected arguments by the city that Florentine Films and filmmakers Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns were not independent journalists entitled to reporter's privilege. He said Florentine had "established its independence in the making of the film" and may claim the privilege.
He also said the city had failed to adequately address the requirements of relevance and significance of the materials it sought and had failed to demonstrate they are not available from another source.
City attorney Celeste Koeleveld said city lawyers were "disappointed and reviewing our options." "While journalistic privilege under the law is very important, we firmly believe it did not apply here. This film is a one-sided advocacy piece that depicts the plaintiffs' version of events as undisputed fact."