August 26, 2014
An image of 18-year-old Michael Brown is seen on a tie worn by his father as his parents Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., hold hands while arriving to take part in their son's funeral services at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri, August 25, 2014. Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST OBITUARY)
An image of Michael Brown is seen on a tie worn by his father as his parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., hold hands while arriving to take part in their son’s funeral. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Lopa Blumenthal sort of meandered into the middle of a CNN scoop on the Aug. 9 police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. She’s an attorney in the St. Louis area and a “prior client” of hers stopped by for a visit at her office in Hazelwood, Mo. Knowing that this man lived in Ferguson, she expressed concern for his well-being, at which point the man shared with her a video recording allegedly taken by the man’s roommate in Ferguson at the time of Brown’s killing. Apparent bursts of gunfire were audible.

Blumenthal, 46, realized that the recording needed to get into the hands of the authorities.

Neither her “prior client” nor his roommate, says Blumenthal, had realized that the recording would be valuable to those investigating the Brown shooting. Yet they did think it might be useful to CNN, and so about a week ago, they sent the recording to the network “as an eyewitness video,” she says. For days, says Blumenthal, they didn’t hear back from the network.

That all changed last night. At the moment that Blumenthal and the man who made the recording were meeting with the FBI, CNN’s Don Lemon called them in search of an interview. “He was not contacted by CNN until I was contacted last night,” says Blumenthal. “He” is the fellow whose voice is now somewhat famous: The audiotape that CNN debuted last night showcases the man saying sweet things to a “girl,” as Blumenthal describes the recipient of the communication.

“You are pretty. You’re so fine, just going over some of your videos. How could I forget?” says the voice, set against the background of several gunshots.

“He was very embarrassed by it,” says Blumenthal of the person behind the recording.

Working on a pro bono basis for this person, Blumenthal requested that CNN not run the video in the recording, but merely use the audio, the better to ensure the privacy of the person. CNN agreed to do so without objection, reports Blumenthal. The pro bono client also wanted his voice removed from the recording, but that wasn’t possible, says the attorney. Though Lemon offered to interview the man in silhouette, he refused to do so.

Every time that CNN has presented the audio, it attaches a disclaimer noting that it hasn’t been able to independently verify the authenticity of the recording. Blumenthal, however, vouches for it. “He is a very reliable witness,” she says.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.