Student documentary director resists subpoena for unpublished footage

MONTANA — Linda Tracy’s effort to tell the story ofa July gathering of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in Missoulaevolved from a journalism internship project into a court battleOct. 11.

Tracy, a 32-year-old senior at the University of Montana, usedabout three hours of footage to produce a 20-minute documentaryon the event that involved altercations between protesters andpolice. The documentary has aired on Missoula’s public accesstelevision channel and is available at a local video store.

Now local prosecutors have subpoenaed her unpublished footagefor use in ongoing investigations and impending trials stemmingfrom the two-night affair, during which 63 people were arrested.

Montana’s shield law, the Media Confidentiality Act, givesabsolute privilege of information and sources to "any personconnected with or employed by" any agency responsible for"disseminating news."

Tracy’s attorney, Rick Sherwood, said her status as a journalismstudent satisfies the requirements of the law. Additionally, Tracyowns a production company, Turtle Majik Productions, for documentariesand investigative news pieces.

Sherwood filed a motion last week to have the subpoena dismissed,but the city’s attorneys have not responded. District Judge DouglasHarkin said he will quash the subpoena if the city does not respond.

Tracy has said she will resist the subpoena regardless of Harkin’sruling. If Harkin upholds the subpoena, Tracy could face a contempt-of-courtcharge.