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BIG MEDIA AND GOVERNMENT ROMP AND STOMP
The Paul and Erma Berger Story


 In 1993, ten vehicles of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agents (FWS) with a CNN camera crew in tow raided the ranch of Paul and Erma Berger, an elderly Montana couple the government claimed had killed federally-protected eagles. Paul Berger, who is 71 and suffers from high blood pressure, was coerced to allow the lead agent to enter and search his home - not knowing that the search warrant did not include the house or that the agent was wearing a hidden CNN microphone.

Informants told the government that the Bergers were using pesticides to poison endangered species, including eagles, that were threatening the couple's livestock. No evidence was found that the Bergers were harming the wildlife. But federal agents, eager to show something to the CNN cameras, accused them of violating federal laws protecting eagles. During the humiliating ordeal, the Bergers were threatened with imprisonment while agents did on-camera interviews attacking the couple's integrity.

A jury acquitted the Bergers of all charges except for improperly using a pesticide - a misdemeanor.

The Bergers sued the federal government for violating their Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. They argued that it was unconstitutional for federal agents to have allowed the CNN camera crew to enter their homes during the raid and film the event.

In May 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the Bergers. The court held that the Fourth Amendment does not allow the police to bring along the press or any other third party that is not part of the law enforcement mission.
Source: Pacific Legal Foundation


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