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Orange County Digest

Santa Ana : Reporter Slaps County With $11-Million Claim

May 31, 1987

A former investigative reporter for the Orange County Register has filed a claim against the county for $11 million, alleging that he was the subject of illegal surveillance by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Chuck Cook, now a reporter for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, based part of his claim of invasion of privacy on the sheriff's office's secret taping of a phone call between him and an informant of the sheriff's office in 1982. Cook is asking for $10 million in punitive damages and $1 million in actual damages in the claim.

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Department on Saturday had no comment on Cook's claim.

The claim was filed Friday with the clerk of the Board of Supervisors. Such claims are required by law before the filing of damage lawsuits against a governmental agency. Cook has said he will file a lawsuit against the county if his claim is rejected.

Cook's claim alleges that he was put under "illegal and unwarranted surveillance" from 1982 to 1985--the years he worked for the Register. During part of that period, Cook wrote stories about deaths in the County Jail.

"They couldn't disprove the facts, so they tried to discredit me," Cook said Saturday. "I was the subject of illegal surveillance, a violation of my First Amendment (freedom of the press) rights."

In March, details of the 1982 secret taping of Cook by the Sheriff's Department surfaced in a federal lawsuit filed by Municipal Judge Bobby D. Youngblood against Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates.

That lawsuit subsequently was settled by attorneys for Gates and the county with a payment of $375,000 to Youngblood and private investigator George Pat Bland.

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