DOJ Preps Charges Against Former ABC News Producer

ABC News - 2021 - Credit: Michael Le Brecht/ABC/Getty Images
ABC News - 2021 - Credit: Michael Le Brecht/ABC/Getty Images

More than seven months after ABC producer James Gordon Meek was the subject of a dramatic Federal Bureau of Investigation raid, an indictment is being prepared by the Department of Justice to present to a grand jury, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The FBI had been tracking Meek for suspected criminal activity unrelated to his work as a journalist long before the April 27 raid, according to those sources as well as two others. Additionally, new details have emerged surrounding the matter. Rolling Stone has learned that the FBI seized nearly a dozen electronic devices belonging to the Emmy-winning investigative journalist during the predawn raid of his Arlington, Virginia, home, after which Meek abruptly resigned from ABC via email.

The FBI has previously confirmed that the agency had been “conducting court-authorized law-enforcement activity” on the morning of April 27 at Meek’s address. Meek’s attorney Eugene Gorokhov says, “I cannot comment on any pending investigations, but any decisions that need to be made right now are entirely within the government’s discretion.”

More from Rolling Stone

The Department of Justice is said to be taking extra precautions given Meek’s status as a journalist. The investigation, details of which are not publicly available, is moving at a deliberate pace that is typical for a high-profile subject, sources say. Complicating matters, the FBI allegedly found classified information on Meek’s laptop following the seizure, multiple sources say. The alleged possession of classified material would remain a separate matter, two of those sources add, and would likely not result in criminal charges.

The national-security investigative producer frequently worked on stories that involved sensitive materials and sourcing. He was best known for deep dives that included a series of reports on a 2017 ISIS ambush in Niger that left four American Green Berets dead. His reporting, which poked holes in the Pentagon’s official narrative of what really happened during the botched mission, was adapted into the 2021 feature-length documentary 3212 Un-Redacted for ABC’s sister company Hulu.

On Oct. 18, Rolling Stone first reported on the raid of Meek’s home – a top-floor apartment in the upscale Siena Park complex in suburban Washington, D.C. Meek tendered his resignation to a supervisor via email, citing personal reasons, one day after the raid, which he never disclosed to ABC. Sources say ABC was unaware of the raid until months after it happened. Meek’s attorney declined comment on that point. In a sign that the raid was unrelated to his work as a journalist, the network was never asked by Meek to provide legal assistance, according to an ABC source close to the situation. (A news outlet would typically back a journalist facing government scrutiny of their newsgathering activities, such as allegations of possession of classified materials, given the first amendment implications of such matters.) But the origins of the Meek investigation had nothing to do with classified materials, sources say. The April 28 resignation was the last time the network heard from its former star producer, the ABC source says. (Meek, now 53, moved out of his Siena Park apartment shortly after the raid and is living with his mother in suburban D.C.)

How Meek appeared on the FBI’s radar in the first place remains murky. Theresa Carroll Buchanan, a federal magistrate judge in the Virginia Eastern District Court, signed off on the search warrant the day before the raid. Rolling Stone spoke with witnesses to the raid, which featured an extraordinary amount of firepower including an armored tactical vehicle known as a Lenco BearCat G2 as well as an estimated 10 heavily armed agents. But the feds have become increasingly careful when serving warrants. In 2021, two of the bureau’s agents were killed and three were wounded while targeting the home of a Florida man, marking the deadliest day for the FBI since 1994.

For some three decades, Meek broke major stories including the Army’s coverup of the fratricidal death of Pfc. Dave Sharrett II in Iraq at such outlets as and the New York Daily News before landing at ABC, where he was a fixture in the close-knit world of national security beat journalists. But his neighbors and those who worked closely with him over the years describe Meek as something of a closed book. Krystin Poitra, who lived in an apartment adjacent to Meek’s for more than a decade and parked her car next to his SUV, says despite regular exchanges with her neighbor she had no idea what he did for a living. Many former colleagues referred to him as a “military fanboy” given that he touted his connections in the upper ranks of the armed forces. And he left the field of journalism for two years to join the staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security for then-chairman Peter King of New York.

But personal details about the divorced father of two girls remain elusive, with some exceptions, like Meek telling colleagues that he was inspired to cover terrorism cases after his cousin perished in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Reporter Janon Fisher, who worked with Meek at both APB and the Daily News, tells Rolling Stone that his former colleague was an intense man who appeared to be part of the so-called straight-edge subculture whose adherents eschew alcohol and drugs and was a fan of the D.C. band Fugazi.

“He was a good colleague but a bit standoffish at times,” Fisher adds. “He never spoke loosely about his personal life. I never got anything from him. You usually get some information from somebody during conversation. There’s an exchange back and forth. And it just seemed like he wasn’t he wasn’t giving much back. He was just very guarded that way.”

Meanwhile, Meek’s trajectory from investigative star reporter to a headline-grabbing enigma has become a hot topic in Hollywood. In the months leading up to the raid, Meek was finishing up work on a book for Simon & Schuster titled Operation Pineapple Express: The Incredible Story of a Group of Americans Who Undertook One Last Mission and Honored a Promise in Afghanistan, which he co-authored with Lt. Col. Scott Mann, a retired Green Beret. Several top-tier production companies, including Brad Pitt’s Plan B (Moonlight) and producers like Dana Brunetti (Captain Phillips), had been vying for the rights to Operation Pineapple Express, which was quietly acquired by Basil Iwanyk (Sicario). Sources say Meek had been running point on negotiations but then abruptly cut off communications. “He was texting and doing Zoom calls every day, and then he just stopped,” says one person involved with film rights negotiations. Sometime in the spring, Simon & Schuster mysteriously scrubbed Meek’s name from all press materials for the book as well as in most instances within the book itself, in which he played a central role in the narrative as a journalist who helped American-trained commandos escape Afghanistan amid the U.S. military’s chaotic withdrawal in 2021. (Meek is included in the character list in the book.) A Simon & Schuster representative declined comment.

“He contacted me in the spring, and was really distraught, and told me that he had some serious personal issues going on and that he needed to withdraw from the project,” Mann told Rolling Stone. “As a guy who’s a combat veteran who has seen that kind of strain — I don’t know what it was — I honored it. And he went on his way, and I continued on the project.”

The book became a New York Times bestseller, but sources say its cinematic prospects now hang in the balance as the Meek association has resurfaced.

Ultimately, many of his colleagues are perplexed by the curious matter of Meek, an esteemed journalist who now appears to be in serious legal jeopardy. But one person who worked closely with Meek on 3212 Un-Redacted described him as shrouded in mystery, a man who operated professionally with a level of secrecy that was atypical even for a reporter covering sensitive subjects. He frequently kicked all but one or two staffers out of the room during story meetings.

Another person who worked on the film says Meek was well connected in the intelligence community, but nothing else about him stood out. Adds the source: “Everything about this case is shocking and unsettling.”

Best of Rolling Stone

Click here to read the full article.