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Wyo. prosecutors drop subpoena against reporter

Ben Neary, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors on Thursday dropped their request to force a Wyoming newspaper reporter to testify about her interview with a bank robbery suspect.

Prosecutors had subpoenaed Jackson Hole News & Guide reporter Emma Breysse to testify about her interview with Corey Allan Donaldson.

Trial starts Monday for Donaldson, a 39-year-old Australian accused of taking $140,000 from a bank in Jackson on New Year's Eve.

Breysse reported that Donaldson told her in an interview from jail following his arrest in Utah that he robbed the bank to give money to the homeless.

The newspaper this week asked U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson to quash Breysse's subpoena, saying forcing her to testify for the government would have a chilling effect on its newsgathering.

Prosecutor Todd Shugart told Johnson Thursday he no longer wanted to call Breysse as a witness. John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, declined comment after the hearing on the decision to drop the subpoena.

"We felt that requiring her to testify would be tantamount to making her an 'unofficial investigator' for the government," Kevin Olson, publisher of the News & Guide, said Thursday.

Donaldson has written to news organizations, including The Associated Press, from jail, likening himself to Robin Hood. He maintains the federal government lacks standing to prosecute him because its bank-bailout policies hurt the poor.

Johnson ruled Thursday he won't allow Donaldson to argue at trial that he was justified in robbing the bank. The judge also declined to issue subpoenas for homeless people Donaldson said could verify that they would have frozen to death on the streets but for the money he gave them.

Johnson said Donaldson had other options aside from robbing the bank but that Donaldson "chose to go forward on this Quixotic episode that took him across many states."

Prosecutors allege Donaldson persuaded the bank manager to turn over the cash after saying that members of a Mexican cartel were prepared to blow up the bank otherwise.

Donaldson told Johnson on Thursday that the security in the bank was so bad that he spent an hour and a half inside before the manager turned over the money. He said he believes security was poor because banks aren't concerned about losing money when the federal government stands ready to reimburse them for losses.

Donaldson, a large man with a thick Australian accent, is acting as his own attorney.

Donaldson told Johnson that his decision forbidding him from arguing that he was justified in robbing the bank, "is a kick in the guts to the homeless people."

Johnson appointed James Barrett, a veteran assistant federal public defender, to assist Donaldson.

Asked what sort of defense Donaldson has after the judge's ruling, Barrett said, "What he believes he has left, I don't know. He may believe he has something."