Former San Jose sports reporter gets two-year restraining order
Paul Gackle, a former Mercury News sports reporter, recently fought a restraining order from his former employer. Photo by Eli Wolfe.

    A San Jose court has issued a restraining order against former Mercury News reporter Paul Gackle, ending a long legal battle with the paper.

    In an order issued Monday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Carol Overton ruled Gackle must stay at least 100 yards away from all Mercury News employees. The order expires Sept. 20, 2024. The Mercury News requested the restraining order after Gackle allegedly threatened a reporter last year.

    Gackle, who fought against the proposed restraining order in court last month, told San José Spotlight he feels like his life is over.

    “What am I going to do now?” he said. “I can’t work, I’m disabled, I can’t get benefits… I’m trapped.”

    The Mercury News requested a restraining order against Gackle last August, following an altercation between him and reporter Robert Salonga at a campaign event for District Attorney candidate Sajid Khan. According to both parties, Gackle approached Salonga at the event and criticized his reporting on an assault that happened to Gackle in 2017. After a public defender intervened, Gackle made the comment, “but I haven’t even punched him yet.”

    Bay Area News Group senior editor Bert Robinson declined comment.

    In court, Gackle said the comment was meant sarcastically, and the public defender testified she didn’t believe anyone was in danger during the confrontation.

    “Deep ill will”

    The Mercury News viewed the incident as part of a pattern of harassment on Gackle’s part, noting he repeatedly attacked Salonga and the Mercury News on Twitter. The newspaper also argued Gackle is capable of violence, citing an incident where he brought a knife into the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and threatened suicide.

    In a brief filed last week, the Mercury News argued a continued restraining order is necessary because there is clear and convincing evidence Gackle harbors “deep ill will” for the paper and its employees and has threatened violence.

    “Gackle threatened a Mercury News employee with a threat of harm,” the brief said. “He continues to exhibit continued anger, which was well in evidence during the hearings on this matter. There is a real fear that another encounter like this will happen because Mr. Salonga and other reporters are often in public and they are accessible to Mr. Gackle.”

    Gackle’s fight with the Mercury News is rooted in a tragedy that occurred almost five years ago. On July 21, 2017, a woman named Sydney Whalen stabbed Gackle 14 times and robbed his apartment. Whalen was later convicted of killing a man in Hayward following her assault on Gackle.

    Gackle, who was employed as a sports reporter at the Mercury News, said the attack left him with post-traumatic stress disorder that made doing his job difficult. Gackle’s stress grew worse after the paper published an article about Whalen in September 2018 that mentioned his name.

    Gackle was fired in 2019. Since then, he has criticized the Mercury News and Salonga on Twitter. He has also denounced the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for allegedly violating his rights as a crime victim by not initially notifying him about the identity of his attacker.

    Margaret Petros, executive director of organization Mothers Against Murder and an advocate for Gackle, said she was devastated by the judge’s order. She said the restraining order may impact his ability to get compensation from the state as the victim of a crime, and it will impact his life in myriad other ways.

    “This is the uncompassionate way they have dealt with Paul all along,” Petros told San José Spotlight. “The impact of this is a lifetime.”

    Gackle said he was baffled by the judge’s ruling, noting Overton previously said she would issue a written ruling explaining her decision. The restraining order notes that a written ruling will be issued separately, but as of Monday morning nothing has been filed by the court.

    Gackle did not say whether he plans to appeal the order. He said the terms make it functionally impossible for him to live or work in the Bay Area.

    “I’m going to have to move out of the area, obviously—I can’t go anywhere or to public events,” Gackle said. “I’m worried this is going to be used to further deny me benefits and victims’ compensation, and I think it’s going to be really hard for me to get a job.”

    Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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