Secrecy Rules Logo


Secrecy Rules

James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s open government reporter, examines government secrecy in Minnesota and beyond.

Prince's FBI file includes reported threat to sell his personal info to media

Prince performing in 1996 with then-wife Mayte Garcia. That year, their son died days after birth. (AP Photo/Honolulu Star Bulletin, Kathryn Bender)

The late rock legend Prince faced an extortion attempt in 1997 and three threatening telephone messages in 2005, according to a newly released FBI file.

The first record is handwritten and indicates that someone threatened to sell personal documents to the media that could be potentially damaging to Prince.

Federal investigators redacted part of the record, but the document goes on to discuss the death of Prince’s infant son, which “is also being investigated by authorities,” although they have “declined federal prosecution.”

The date of the complaint, March 28, 1997, coincides with the famously private pop star’s legal battle to keep two former employees from talking to the news media about the death of his son, from natural causes days after he was born.

Months earlier, a London tabloid reported about the infant’s death, based on interviews with those employees, but any connection of the FBI complaint with that case isn’t clear. The employees believed the baby should never had been taken off life support, but investigators did not find any wrongdoing.

The second complaint involved a woman who was calling Prince’s office “threatening to make his life miserable, and threatening bodily harm. Caller also threatens to commit suicide.”

Thirteen days later, federal prosecutors declined to take the case.

Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose last year at age 57, and his heirs are in court trying to resolve his estate.

By law, FBI files on individuals become public after the person has died.

Weeks after Prince died, the Star Tribune filed a request for the artist’s FBI file.

It took the FBI a year to release four pages, which were partly redacted. Thirteen additional pages were withheld entirely on the grounds that releasing them would be an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” or could reveal the identity of a confidential informant.

Read the file here:



Sheriff Stanek's new anti-crime program will remain undercover

Hennepin Sheriff Rich Stanek last week announced the county and a number of private companies and institutions were participating in a new intelligence-sharing effort called Shield. It's probably the last the public will hear about it for a while.

Members of the sheriff's office said at the news conference that the program would issue monthly reports, which would be public. That wasn't correct, said Jon Collins, the sheriff's spokesman. In fact, those reports are internal trend analyses, and there are no plans to issue public reports about the progress of the Shield program, Collins said.

Shield originated as a counterterrorism program from the New York Police Department, but has since expanded to a handful of other law enforcement agencies. Collins said it's an extension of the sheriff's current suspicious activity reporting. He said it's possible that if a partner in the network helps crack a case, say a string of burglaries, then it's possible the Shield connection might be publicized.

Otherwise, Hennepin County Sheriff's Office Shield works undercover.