Tim Burke has produced news stories that have gone viral, but until last year, he was never a character in any news piece. Now, he finds himself in the middle of a very big story, a federal criminal case.

Who is Tim Burke? Why is he accused of 14 federal crimes, and what does it mean for the state of journalism?

Who Is Tim Burke?

Tim Burke, 45, is a Tampa media consultant, journalist, and video producer with over twenty years of experience. He has worked for The Daily Beast, Deadspin, Gawker Media, and Gizmodo Media Group. Through his company Burke Communications, Burke produces video content that is often distributed through larger media outlets. His high-profile clients have included HBO and ESPN, according to reporting by Tampa Bay Times.

Burke’s videos have gained notoriety in the past. While at Deadspin, his reporting on the Notre Dame football player Manti T’eo helped uncover the catfish story that became a national media sensation.

He was also responsible for a viral video clip in 2018. When Sinclair Broadcast Group had journalists at dozens of local television stations read the same public service announcement about “irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country,” Burke stitched together dozens of clips, creating a chilly compilation that spread quickly across the internet.

Burke also has some experience in local politics. In 2023, Burke helped his wife, Lunn Hurtak, with her political campaign. She won a seat on Tampa’s City Council.

Burke has had a seemingly normal career, so it came as a shock when the home he shares with his wife was raided by the FBI.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

Why Did The FBI Raid Burke’s Home?

In May 2023, FBI agents executed a search warrant and entered Burke’s home in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. Agents arrived at 6 a.m. and conducted their search until 3:44 p.m., per reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Agents would not tell reporters why they were there. The affidavit used by the FBI to obtain the search warrant was sealed.

Burke said the agents took his cell phone, several computers and hard drives, and other equipment. Months after the raid, Burke said many of his belongings hadn’t been returned. Six months later, Burke was in a fight with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to get his items returned when he was officially charged with crimes.

Why Was Burke Charged with 14 Federal Crimes?

On February 22, 2024, Burke was charged with 14 federal charges, including conspiracy, accessing a protected computer without authorization, and intercepting or disclosing wire, oral, or electronic communications, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times. 

The case is centered around video material prosecutors say Burke accessed illegally.

They say Burke accessed video footage from an interview between Tucker Carlson and Kayne West that was not made public. The videos include unaired clips and behind-the-scenes footage of Kanye West making antisemitic comments.

The indictment says Burke used “compromised credentials” to access and save protected commercial broadcast video streams and then edit and share the videos without saying where they came from or how they were obtained.

If convicted on all charges, Burke would face more than 60 years in federal prison.

Related: Dealing With the Media During a High-Profile Case: What to Expect

What Happens Next?

Burke and his attorneys say his actions were not illegal and align with journalist standards for obtaining video content for reporting purposes.

In statements reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Burke’s attorneys say he obtained the videos through hyperlinks that were not encrypted and did not require a username and password. The attorneys believe the case has many implications for independent journalism — and many organizations agree.

In October, more than 50 organizations, including the Freedom of the Press Foundation, wrote to the federal government demanding more transparency about the investigation into Burke. More recently, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said Burke’s case has a “chilling effect on journalism.”

Burke was arraigned on March 12, 2024, and his next court appearance is set for the end of the month.

Protect Your Rights

Whether you are facing criminal charges or a minor misdemeanor, dealing with the legal system is always a serious situation. If you have been involved with a civil or criminal legal matter, get expert legal advice as soon as possible.

An experienced attorney can help you understand the scope of the charges against you and develop a plan to lead to the best possible outcome. Make a plan early. Talk to an attorney today. For a free consultation, schedule a call with attorney TJ Grimaldi. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.

TJ Grimaldi

TJ Grimaldi

TJ Grimaldi joined McIntyre in 2011. McIntyre recruited TJ to create the divisions of personal injury and family law, as well as to expand the existing criminal defense practice at the firm. During TJ’s tenure at McIntyre, he has helped oversee and grow these practice areas. He continues to practice in these divisions while also expanding his own practice areas to include estate planning and immigration law. TJ is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Florida and the United States District Court for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida.