Media coalition files legal action to unseal warrant served on Catawba Co. Sheriff's Office

NEWTON, NC (WBTV) - A coalition of media organizations, including WBTV, filed a motion in Catawba County court late Tuesday afternoon seeking to unseal two search warrants that were executed on the Catawba County Sheriff's Office in April.

The action comes less than two weeks after agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation executed the warrants on the sheriff's office as part of an investigation into Jason Reid.

Reid, a former captain at the office until his resignation in February, once supervised the unit that investigated narcotics crimes. He is the son of current Sheriff Coy Reid and is running to replace his father in the office's top job in a primary on May 8.

The NCSBI's investigation was prompted by a report that Jason Reid put a GPS tracking device on a vehicle belonging to an ex girlfriend.

"I was receiving text messages from him telling me places where I was which led me to believe that there was something on my phone or on my car," the woman told WBTV in an exclusive interview prior to the warrants being executed.

WBTV is not revealing the woman's name, given the nature of the stalking allegations she has made against Reid.

"The day that we found the device I received a picture message from him of my car so that told me there was something on my car and we found the device on the back under the bumper," she said.

Previous: SBI investigating sheriff's candidate accused of stalking ex-girlfriend

Reid has not responded to requests for comment from WBTV. His father, Coy Reid, has agreed to multiple interviews with WBTV only to later cancel them and has not provided a written comment regarding the woman's allegations nor the search warrants in response to multiple requests from the station.

According to the motion filed by the media coalition on Tuesday, Coy Reid and his personal attorney, Lisa Dubs, went to a Superior Court judge in Catawba County the afternoon the warrants were executed and had the warrants sealed.

The motion says Judge Dan Kuehnert entered an order sealing the warrants without notifying any other interested party - including attorneys from the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case - that such a request had been made.

Document: Read the motion filed by the media coalition on Tuesday

According to the motion filed Tuesday, Kuehnert's order also included a provision prohibiting anyone with knowledge of the warrant or the sealing order from talking about them.

An exhibit attached to the motion that was filed Tuesday shows that a WBTV reporter sought information about Kuehnert's sealing order in a letter sent late last Tuesday, days after the warrant had been executed.

"In response to multiple inquiries, staff at the clerk's office has told me they have no additional paperwork related to the sealing of the search warrants other than what has been sealed in the envelope," WBTV investigative reporter Nick Ochsner wrote in his letter to Kuehnert.

"In the course of my reporting of this important and newsworthy story—that of the NCSBI executing search warrants on a county sheriff's office as part of a criminal investigation into the son of the current sheriff who, himself, is a candidate for sheriff—I have attempted to obtain documents related to the sealing of the search warrants," Ochsner's letter said. "To date, I cannot locate any such documents."

The following day, Kuehnert responded to Ochsner in an email saying an order addressing his letter was now available at the courthouse.

That order, according to the coalition's motion filed Tuesday, sealed the order that sealed the search warrants. It also included a gag order prohibiting anyone with any knowledge of the search warrants or the process by which the warrants were sealed from discussing that information.

That sealing order, gag order, and sealing of the search warrants themselves are all being challenged in the motion filed by the media coalition on Tuesday.

According to the coalition's motion, Kuehnert's order violates the North Carolina Public Records Act, the North Carolina Constitution, North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and an administrative order issued by the senior judge in Catawba County outlining how and when search warrants may be sealed.

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