Fox News mole Joe Muto served with search warrant, Gawker doesn't expect to be served

In a series of tweets, the Gawker blogger who worked at Fox News until he was outed as a mole announces this morning that News Corp.'s legal threats were not just talk. Gawker COO Gaby Darbyshire told me by email that Muto remains an employee and "we will be providing him with legal support." She also said Gawker hasn't "been served yet" and "we don't expect to served."

At a talk earlier this month at UNC, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes said of Muto, "The mole shows a culture that believes in theft, a lack of loyalty, turning on his colleagues, lying to management, and there are some real, ethical, serious questions about it.”

According to the search warrant, Fox News told the investigator that Muto "accessed and made edited versions of over 10 video clips belonging to Fox News."

Gawker published two of Muto's posts under the byline "The Fox Mole" on April 10 and 11; Fox News suspended him on April 11. Gawker published another post on April 12, the day Muto was fired.

That same day, lawyers for Fox sent a letter to Gawker publisher Nick Denton, which said, "Muto's admissions are admissions of likely criminal and civil wrongdoing on both his and Gawker's part, which will be the subject of further intensive investigation. ... Gawker should immediately stop publishing information and videos that have been unlawfully obtained by or from Joe Muto and return them to Fox News."

I can find no stories by Muto published since that request, though he remains an employee.
(Update: Gawker published a story by Muto at 5 p.m. today about a Fox News interview with "Alf." The story was "shortly after he revealed himself on Gawker earlier this month.")

Gawker COO Darbyshire said she doesn't expect the company to be served with a warrant because "I believe the shield laws apply just as they did when the California DA's office messed up in issuing a search warrant against our writer Jason Chen in the iPhone 4 prototype case. The appropriate way to demand any information they want in this matter is by issuing us a subpoena, not raiding our offices. But then again, who knows? Fox might be able to persuade them to do it anyway."

A media lawyer tells Poynter that New York's shield law may protect Muto, though the local district attorney's office appears to be treating him as a disgruntled employee, not a journalist.

Meanwhile Wednesday morning, Rupert Murdoch testified about press ethics for the Leveson inquiry into media behavior after the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp.'s now-defunct News of the World.

Steve Myers contributed to this report.


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