IDAHO FALLS — A subpoena filed against EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton has been withdrawn by John Prior, the defense attorney representing Chad Daybell.
The subpoena, which was filed in early May, had commanded Eaton to appear in a Fremont County courtroom for a hearing ostensibly to discuss changing the venue of the Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell court cases.
At the time the subpoena was issued, the couple was charged with conspiracy to conceal or destroy evidence, after the bodies of Lori Vallow Daybell's children, Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were found buried on Chad's Salem property last summer.
Since then, the couple has also been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, and a number of financial crimes related to the deaths of the children, and Chad Daybell's former wife Tammy Daybell.
Prior's subpoena aimed to compel Eaton to testify about EastIdahoNews.com, including its geographic and/or online reach, audience size and amount of pageviews.
EastIdahoNews.com policy prevents reporters from actively being involved in any judicial proceedings related to a story they are covering. As such, the company retained Utah attorney Jeffrey Hunt, who negotiated with Prior on its behalf.
"We are pleased that the subpoena has been withdrawn," Hunt said. "The First Amendment protects the independence of news reporters so they are free to report on judicial proceedings without becoming witnesses in them. The withdrawal of the subpoena is a welcome recognition of that independence and the vital role of the news media in providing information to the public about this case."
I just received word from my attorney that John Prior has withdrawn my subpoena in the Daybell case. pic.twitter.com/STSOOC3kev— Nate Eaton (@NateNewsNow) May 29, 2021
It's very unusual for reporters to be called to testify in court cases. Since the subpoena was filed, EastIdahoNews.com has been contacted by a number of press organizations in support of fighting the order, including the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Idaho Press Club.
Chad Daybell is scheduled to appear in court on June 9 for his arraignment.