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DOJ could prosecute Al Jazeera America’s source over Calderon affidavit leak

The Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to know who leaked a sealed court document to news network Al Jazeera America concerning a California state senator.

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera published a sealed FBI affidavit detailing the agency’s investigation of Calderon over alleged bribes he was said to have received in exchange for protecting the interests of a Southern California medical company.

According to the affidavit, Calderon was suspected of indirectly accepting kickbacks from Michael Drobot, the owner of a spinal surgery clinic in Long Beach. Drobot allegedly funneled money to Calderon through the state senator’s brother and son.

In exchange, Calderon was said to have rallied against legislation that would have placed tighter restrictions on how the state paid worker’s compensation claims.

Drobot’s businesses were raided in April after a grand jury cleared the way for federal authorities to launch an investigation over alleged racketeering. When contacted by Al Jazeera, Drobot denied bribing Calderon, but did admit to hiring his brother and son.

Calderon’s offices in Sacramento were raided in early June. When asked about the investigation, the FBI said they were “prohibited from commenting” because their affidavit supporting the raid was under court seal.

Sometime between June and October, an unnamed individual provided Al Jazeera with a copy of the affidavit. The news organization, which has offices in New York City and San Francisco, published a full report along with the affidavit on Tuesday.

News organizations in California who have “invested considerable time on unraveling the potential case against Calderon” are now wondering who leaked the document to Al Jazeera, an international news organization that rarely invests time or effort into matters of state politics.

They aren’t the only ones. The FBI has reportedly asked the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the source of the leaked document, hinting that Al Jazeera’s source — if unmasked — could face prosecution.

Calderon has been notably silent since the June raid on his capitol office. Calderon quickly retained criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos after the incident, who challenged the Al Jazeera report when questioned by the Los Angeles Times.

Geragos dismissed claims in the affidavit as criminal, saying the only crime he saw was committed by “somebody who released a sealed affidavit.” Geragos, who implied Al Jazeera committed a crime by publishing the document, called the network’s report on his client “fabricated and untrue.”

The affidavit is likely just one of several documents Al Jazeera has on Calderon. This week, the channel launched “Al Jazeera Investigates The Calderon Dynasty,” positioning itself as the network that will, in real time, document the downfall of a state politician through the exposure of his alleged misdeeds.

Al Jazeera America: FBI says Calif. senator aided fraud
Sacramento Bee: FBI seeks source of leaked Calderon affidavit
Los Angeles Times: Federal authorities raid Calderon’s capitol offices

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is an award-winning journalist with more than 10 years of experience covering the business of television and radio broadcasting, streaming services and the overall media industry. In addition to his work as publisher of The Desk, Matthew contributes regularly to StreamTV Insider and KnowTechie, and has worked for several well-known news organizations, including Thomson Reuters, McNaughton Newspapers, Grasswire, Comstock's magazine, KTXL-TV and KGO-TV. Matthew is a member of IRE, a trade organization for investigative reporters and editors, and is based in Northern California.

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