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Federal grand jury tells Kansas bookstore to hand over customer records

By The Associated Press


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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A federal grand jury has subpoenaed customer purchase records from a northeast Kansas bookstore, at least the third such federal request for records around the country in the past three years.

The subpoena, involving a Borders store in Johnson County, came to light last week when a bookseller industry newsletter reported that several groups had filed court papers on Borders' behalf.

Grand jury investigations are confidential, and few details of the case were known. The Kansas City Star reported Nov. 17 that the case in question is pending before a federal judge in Kansas City, Kan., and is sealed.

However, an attorney for Borders told the newspaper that the subpoena was issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration in mid-September.

A spokeswoman at Borders' headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., declined to comment on the subpoena, also citing the confidential nature of the investigation. She was unable to say which of the three Borders stores in Johnson County had been subpoenaed.

Also unclear was whether one or more customers' purchase receipts were subpoenaed.

"PW Daily for Booksellers," an industry newsletter put out by Publishers Weekly, reported Nov. 15 that the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Media Coalition, the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association, the National Association of College Stores and other groups had filed papers in the case on Borders' behalf.

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is supported by 15 book, First Amendment and freedom-of-expression groups.

In the first federal subpoena case, investigators sought the bookstore purchase records of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. A federal judge ruled that the request was overly broad.

The case later became irrelevant when Lewinsky struck a deal with independent counsel Kenneth Starr granting Lewinsky immunity from prosecution.

The second case arose in April when five plainclothes police officers entered the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver with a search warrant for the records of one of the store's customers.

Police had found two books on the manufacture of methamphetamine in the customer's home and a Tattered Cover shipping envelope in the customer's trash, according to the American Booksellers Foundation.

In October, a judge narrowed the warrant's scope but ordered the bookstore to disclose the contents of the shipping envelope. The store's owner has appealed the order to the Colorado Supreme Court.

A brief on behalf of the Tattered Cover has been filed by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.


Federal judge quashes subpoena for Kansas bookstore's sales records
Civil liberties groups had expressed concern about possible 'chilling effect on book purchasers and booksellers.'  12.04.00