Crown Publishers LLC will seek permission to lift the publication ban on any statements Nathaniel McLellan makes to the media in an effort to verify the authenticity of material allegedly written by him, his family said Thursday.
The move, first reported by The Washington Post, comes hours after three media organizations that had requested that the order be lifted said they would object to the request.
News organizations including The Washington Post, as well as The Associated Press, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University had all filed appeals with the D.C. Superior Court to halt what McLellan’s family called “outrageous media coverage” of the child murder investigation into his alleged involvement in his older brother’s death.
In August, McLellan’s family said in a statement that McLellan had written two books and given the documents to an editor to review. They said he was also planning to write an “epic” book about his experience that would “be a must-read for anyone looking to understand all that happened between us.”
In a June 2017 arrest affidavit, prosecutors claimed that McLellan was involved in the killing of his 6-year-old brother, Gavin. A months-long police investigation concluded that McLellan’s older brother, Chance “Chance” McLellan, murdered Gavin. The two had a volatile relationship. Chance McLellan was found dead in his barracks.
Three months before Chance McLellan was slain, prosecutors said, Nathaniel McLellan was interviewed by a squad of detectives. Records of the interview are sealed, but prosecutors said it showed the younger McLellan, after seeing the death, reported to police “that it was possible that his brother had been harmed by Chance” and asked if they could “work together to make sure that he did not return to the wrong side of the law.”
Two years later, prosecutors said, McLellan had been granted immunity from prosecution. A superior court judge subsequently granted the gag order to stop statements in the murder investigation from being made.
Several media outlets, including The Washington Post, filed appeals last week on behalf of News4 Washington and the Associated Press. On Thursday, lawyers for these three outlets said in a court filing that Crown had not given any reason as to why the media would not be permitted to cover information in these publications. The ACLU of Washington said it would oppose the company’s request because “it would undermine the American news media’s constitutional right to free speech and the public’s right to the truth.”
Lawyers for other media outlets have also filed an appeal with the D.C. Superior Court, The Post reported.
The D.C. Superior Court judge overseeing the appeal process, Josephine Cooper, had held a hearing on Aug. 24 and had requested responses by Sept. 6.
The Post’s reporting about the McLellan brothers has won a national award for journalism. “My Brother’s Killer” won the award from the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) organization.
On Aug. 1, newspapers were allowed to publish for the first time a document purportedly written by McLellan. Though Cooper had issued a gag order preventing publication of the document, attorneys for the media organization that obtained it attempted to subvert the order, and pleaded with Cooper to lift the order.
After the June 2017 police interview with McLellan had been sealed, the attorneys for the media organizations that obtained it asked to make the document public, and Cooper denied their request.