Publications refuse to hand over audio in Sheen investigation – Reuters

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NEW YORK Celebrity website and the National Enquirer tabloid on Thursday refused to hand over material sought by authorities investigating threats those media reported actor Charlie Sheen made against a former girlfriend.

The latest commotion involving Sheen, which began as celebrity gossip, appears to have become a battle over press freedom and a possible criminal case.

Three times married, Sheen’s career has been overshadowed for years by his admittedly raucous lifestyle, substance abuse, stints in rehab and fondness for dating porn stars.

The LAPD said its threat management division had opened a criminal investigation of Sheen.

Los Angeles police on Tuesday served a search warrant on the New York headquarters of American Media Inc., the parent company of RadarOnline and the Enquirer.

The police probe follows published reports by RadarOnline and the Enquirer about audio in which a man, said to be the former “Two and a Half Men” TV star, is heard saying he would like to see a former fiancee “have her head kicked in.” Neither publication has published the audio.

Sheen’s attorney has not replied to requests for comment.

Dylan Howard, editor in chief of the Enquirer and editorial director of RadarOnline, told Reuters on Thursday they had no plans to turn over documents or identify their sources.

He said the search warrant was illegal under both state and federal law that prevents the use of such warrants against media organizations relating to “newsworthy” information.

“We do believe that a judge did issue this order against the law, and that’s why we will not be complying with its order,” Howard said in an interview. The LAPD should emulate the two publications and “uncover the evidence” themselves, he added.

The two publications first reported on the audio at the end of March, saying it was recorded by an unnamed former lover of Sheen. They have reported quotes from the audio, but have not made it available online. Reuters cannot verify the voice is Sheen’s.

RadarOnline subsequently named Scottine Ross, a former porn star and fiancee of Sheen, as the person who made the recording.

According to a copy of the search warrant and an affidavit provided on Thursday by RadarOnline, the Los Angeles police investigation was triggered by Ross, who accused Sheen in a December lawsuit of assault and of having sex with her without revealing he was HIV positive.

Sheen announced in a November interview that he had been diagnosed with HIV about four years earlier, but said it was “impossible” that he had transmitted the virus to anyone else.

According to the affidavit, Ross went to police fearing for her life after reading the initial RadarOnline and Enquirer reports in March, which said Sheen had made threats against Ross in calls to another unidentified woman.

(Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein and Roselle Chen; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andrew Hay)

Publications refuse to hand over audio in Sheen investigation – Reuters