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Orange County Digest

Local News in Brief : Countywide : Judge Allows Reporter's Suit Against Sheriff

December 08, 1987

A federal judge Monday refused to dismiss a lawsuit by a former Orange County investigative reporter who has accused county Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates of harassing him in retaliation for articles criticizing his agency.

Gates and the Sheriff's Department asked the court to dismiss Charles R. Cook's $11 million lawsuit, saying that the alleged wrongdoing took place too long ago to pursue it in court.

But U.S. District Judge Robert Kelleher said in Los Angeles that Gates' lawyers had provided insufficient evidence that the lawsuit is barred by the statute of limitations.

Attorney Eric Dobberteen, representing Gates and his department, said after the hearing that he had not yet filed a written response to Cook's lawsuit but added, "You can expect it will be a straight-out denial."

In his August lawsuit, Cook alleged that Gates used members of his department in an elaborate, 2 1/2-year retaliatory campaign starting in 1982, after Cook wrote articles in the Orange County Register about troubles at the sheriff-coroner's office, deaths in Orange County Jail and allegations that a dozen Santa Ana police officers had had sex with a school crossing guard.

Cook, who is now a reporter at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, said in the lawsuit that Gates and others in his department used threats and surveillance to try to silence him and his sources. Cook alleged that such activities are violations of the rights to free expression and a free press.

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