Evidence Disappears in Mercury News Rack Theft Case

A key piece of evidence has disappeared in the Mercury News rack theft caper.

At least one news rack in the Mercury’s possession vanished as the San Jose Police Department prepared to commence a criminal investigation into the daily’s dumping of its competitors’ racks.

Mercury News executives offered no explanation for the evidence-tampering—only that they had “triple checked” the yard and can’t locate it. Without the missing box—a months-old, recently-redesigned Metro news rack—it will be harder to unravel the mystery and trace whether the Mercury’s sweep of competitors’ stands was centered mainly in Palo Alto or if the media giant was also behind the recent disappearances of street distribution boxes in Willow Glen and San Jose’s Alameda commercial district. The San Jose thefts were reported by three organizations.

Last Wednesday afternoon, shocked representatives of Metro, the Palo Alto Daily Post and Circulation Management Inc., a contract distribution firm based in Mountain View, showed up at the Mercury News’ Ridder Park Drive to reclaim their property after CMI discovered newsboxes of local publishers tossed in a scrap metal recycling dumpster behind the Mercury News’ headquarters.

San Jose police officers and Mercury News security personnel ordered the representatives to wait on the sidewalk. The Daily Post’s publisher was threatened with arrest when he went to recover a newsrack, according to a Daily Post report.

The situation was diffused after SJPD offered to take a report and document the evidence, and a Mercury News executive agreed to remove the racks from the dumpster, count and organize the racks and allow the publications to recover their property on Thursday morning.

The Merc did not keep the agreement, however. On Thursday, it asked for more time to empty the dumpster and offered to deliver the seized racks rather than make publishers pick them up. On Friday, the Mercury News delivered four of the five Metro racks that it had in its possession to Metro’s downtown San Jose office.

Where was the other one? Mercury News officials offered no explanation for the disappearance of the Metro rack under their watch, nor have they provided any accounting of the dates, locations and quantity of racks that were picked up.

The Mercury News has changed its story several times. Executives initially said that they were storing the racks for pickup and had contacted publishers. They backed off that argument when publishers of the Daily Post, the Palo Alto Weekly, Mountain View Voice, La Oferta, Pink Spots and Metro publicly disputed the claim. The daily also said it was acting at the request of local officials, but San Jose and Palo Alto swiftly fired back denials.

After extensive coverage on television and radio newscasts, in the community press and on media industry web sites, a new twist emerged when the Mercury News covered the story in its low-circulation Saturday editions’ business sections. In that article, the Mercury News suggested that the recycling of competitors’ racks was a mistake by a single employee, and the count shrank from earlier reports.  Bob Lampkin, a circulation director of Embarcadero Media, was quoted in the article described the news rack removals as “a totally normal situation.” It was also noted Lampkin previously worked for the Mercury News.

Bay Area News Group vice president of circulation David Rounds told his paper that “the racks the Mercury News removed were left along a fence behind the newspaper’s headquarters for pickup. However, while 17 racks were lined up by the fence, an employee mistakenly tossed seven others into a recycling bin.”

The article did not explain why the employee selected nearly-new boxes of the Daily Post and Metro for recycling while he elected not to toss a collection of rusty old racks nearby.

On Monday, Rounds maintained that the Metro rack that had been photographed on Wednesday at the bottom of the metal heap was nowhere to be found.

“If I had your newsrack, I’d give it back,” he told Metro.

Dan Pulcrano is the executive editor and CEO of Metro.

5 Comments

  1. I haven’t commented on this, because I can’t get my head around what’s what here.  No offense, but I do have to say that this is starting to remind me of Queeg in the “Cain Mutiny”.

    “Ahh, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with… geometric logic… that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I’d have produced that key if they hadn’t of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers…

  2. Everyone agrees the Mercury News is the propaganda arm of “mayor” Reed right? Otherwise they would be part of the group that thinks the earth is 5000 years old.
    Everyone agrees that the Merc benefits from a free office inside city hall where Scott Herehold waits quietly for Doug Figone to tell him what to write about, right?
    I Love San Jose. I work hard at Splash so that my family can go on vacation without me so I can stay in San Jose and practice my flute playing at the Watergarden.
    I believe in the future of San Jose too. That’s why I love when Pete Constant tosses coins on the ground for me to pick up in front of him. We don’t call him Pirate Pete for nothing! All those coins he tosses allows me to keep my family on vacation a few extra days a year, which is great because if my wife ever found out about my true love, I’d be forced to get a job at city hall. And city hall hasn’t had an opening for a helmet polisher since Gonzalez left. But I know I could do the best job! To disagree would be like believing the earth is 5000 years old! Yayyye.
    Just sayin.

  3. Just more squabbling between private businesses owned by greedy capitalists.

    And, by the way, they didn’t build those businesses by themselves.  Government teachers taught people how to read, and government infrastructure provided the sidewalks for the news racks.

    People should get their news from PBS and NPR.

  4. It’s always the cover-up after the crime, isn’t it? 

    By now a significant number of people at the Merc and throughout BANG (Bay Area News Group) appear to have engaged in a conspiracy to avoid criminal liability for what was even then violations of several sections of the US and the California Constitutions, not to mention four or five federal and state criminal statutes. 

    The current and on-going criminality appears to add obstruction of justice, conspiracy to cover up criminal behavior, destruction of evidence, false statements to law enforcement, and at least one Merc news story designed to tamper with a future jury.

    Surely it is time to file complaints with the FBI and Attorney General Eric Holder along with California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.

  5. Dale,

    Please, these are the two worst people to file a complaint.  Holder will be covered by Pres and Harris will not even seek a death penalty for a cop killer!  Do you think they care about metal waste!

    Surely it is time to file complaints with the FBI and Attorney General Eric Holder along with California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.