The Los Angeles law firm of Geragos & Geragos has taken to Twitter to call the Pleasanton Weekly a "journalistic disgrace" for failing to publish information contained in one of the firm's press releases.
The firm represents the family of John Deming Jr., who was shot and killed by Pleasanton police officer Daniel Kunkel July 5, and demanded a retraction of a blog post made on Sept. 14 by Pleasanton Weekly publisher Gina Channell-Allen.
In a letter to the Weekly, Lawyers Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas requested the Weekly remove the blog post and apologize.
Bill Johnson, CEO of the newspaper's parent company, Embarcadero Media, responded the paper would not remove the content or apologize because nothing contained in the blog post was factually incorrect or defamatory.
The firm's lawyers then took their objections to a public forum last week by tweeting and linking to the correspondence, and saying "this so-called 'newspaper' is a journalistic disgrace" and "#pleasantonweekly helps #police coverup murder of unarmed teen."
Channell-Allen's blog explained to readers why the Pleasanton Weekly wouldn't be running a news article on a toxicology report provided by the firm that stated there were "no positive findings" of drugs in Deming Jr.'s body on the night he was fatally shot. Her blog stated she made the decision in part because of the "timing and the piecemeal manner with which the Deming family attorneys appear to be releasing information to the media."
She stated the toxicology report had been sent to various media days before Urban Shield, a first responder training conference for local police that includes SWAT, anti-terrorism and massacre-prevention training, was set to begin in Pleasanton.
Channell-Allen explained the firm had paid for the third-party toxicology report and an autopsy report but had chosen to only release the toxicology report. Since the official autopsy and toxicology reports haven't yet been released by the county, Channell-Allen said the Weekly would await the county's reports and then publish a story on both versions.
She also raised the question of whether toxicology tests are able to detect some new club drugs, such as "bath salts." She cited a report in Forensics magazine in which a toxicologist explained the difficulty of testing for this particular drug.
The firm refused to provide the full autopsy report, which could have corroborated the claims in the toxicology report.
In his Sept. 18 letter, attorney Geragos refuted the claims of the blog, calling the Weekly "a shrill propaganda arm for Pleasanton PD." He said the company that had completed the toxicology -- NMS Labs -- provide fair results regardless of who is paying them, claimed that bath salt compounds were tested for in that toxicology and were not detected and claimed that the firm's intention wasn't to draw attention to Urban Shield but to fulfill a request for information from the Weekly.
The Pleasanton Weekly contacted the Geragos firm on Sept. 10 to receive a copy of the toxicology report that had been released to other media but not provided to the Weekly. The toxicology report was dated Aug. 24, but the date on the press release was Sept. 9. The title of the press release was "John Deming Jr.'s toxicology: No positive findings as Pleasanton set to host Operation Urban Shield," with the last five words underlined.
In its letter to the Weekly the firm also criticized the paper for not publishing personnel information the firm released related to Officer Kunkel and his past employment which the Weekly has been unable to independently verify.