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From AJR,   August/September 2005  issue


By Unknown

On July 6, the New York Times' Judith Miller was carted off to jail when she refused to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Miller joins a group of journalists who, when faced with breaking confidentiality agreements with sources or doing jail time, chose the latter. Here's a list of other notable incarcerations of journalists since 1990 from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

1990, Brian Karem, San Antonio. TV reporter subpoenaed by defense and prosecution; refused to reveal name of individuals who arranged jailhouse interview. Jailed for 13 days. Released when sources came forward.

1990, Libby Averyt, Corpus Christi. Newspaper reporter subpoenaed for information about jailhouse interview. Jailed over a weekend; released when judge was convinced she would never turn over the unpublished information sought.

1990, Tim Roche, Stuart, Florida. Newspaper reporter subpoenaed to reveal source for leaked court order supposed to have been sealed. Jailed briefly; released pending appeal. Later sentenced to 30 days for criminal contempt. Served 18 days in 1993 and was released.

1991, Sid Gaulden, Schuyler Kropf, Cindi Scoppe, Andrew Shain; Columbia, South Carolina. Prosecutors sought unpublished conversations with state senator on trial for corruption. Reporters jailed for eight hours; released for appeal, which they lost, but trial was over.

1991, Felix Sanchez and James Campbell, Houston. Newspaper reporters locked in judge's chambers for several hours; had refused to stand in the back of courtroom and identify possible eyewitnesses to crime. Appeal successful.

1994, Lisa Abraham, Warren, Ohio. Newspaper reporter jailed from January 19 to February 10 for refusing to testify before a state grand jury about jailhouse interview.

1996, Bruce Anderson, Ukiah, California. Editor of Anderson Valley Independent found in civil contempt; jailed for 13 days for refusing to turn over original letter to the editor received from prisoner. After a week, he tried to turn over the letter, but judge refused to believe it was the original because it was typed. After another week, judge finally accepted that the typewritten letter was the original.

1996, David Kidwell, Palm Beach County, Florida. Miami Herald reporter found in criminal contempt, sentenced to 70 days for refusing to testify for prosecution about jailhouse interview. Served 14 days before being released.

2000, Timothy Crews, Red Bluff, California. Sacramento Valley Mirror editor and publisher served a five-day sentence for refusing to reveal his confidential sources in a story involving the sale of an allegedly stolen firearm by a state patrol officer.

2001, Vanessa Leggett, Houston. Author researching "true crime" book jailed for 168 days by federal judge for refusing to disclose her research and the identities of her sources to a federal grand jury investigating a murder. Leggett was freed only after the term of the grand jury expired.

2004, Jim Taricani, Providence, Rhode Island. WJAR television reporter obtained and aired in February 2001 a portion of a videotape showing a city official accepting a bribe from an undercover FBI informant. The tape was sealed evidence in an FBI investigation into corruption by Providence officials. Taricani was subpoenaed but refused to reveal his source and was found in civil contempt of court. After a failed appeal, NBC, WJAR's network, paid $85,000 in fines. In November, Taricani was found in criminal contempt, and a month later was sentenced to six months' home confinement. He was granted early release after four months.

Past lengthy imprisonments include Myron Farber of the New York Times, who served 40 days in jail in 1978, and William Farr, a Los Angeles Times journalist, who served 46 days in 1972, both of whom refused to reveal sources in criminal proceedings.

See www.rcfp.org/jail.html for more information and a list of journalists who were held in contempt of court and fined for protecting sources.