Thursday, December 09, 2004

Reporter gets house arrest in source case

"A Rhode Island television reporter was sentenced to six months of house arrest on Thursday for refusing to reveal the source of an undercover videotape, even though the source identified himself.

Investigative journalist Jim Taricani was convicted last month of criminal contempt for not saying who leaked a surveillance videotape in an FBI corruption investigation. But after the conviction, a defense lawyer came forward and identified himself as Taricani's source.

Taricani, one of several American journalists who have been found in contempt in recent months for failing to name confidential sources, had faced up to six months in prison for his conviction.

But at a sentencing hearing on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres said he had taken the reporter's health into consideration in deciding against sending Taricani to jail. Taricani, 55, has had a heart transplant.

Still, Torres said it was important that his sentence be seen as sending a strong message that would deter reporters from behaving in a similar fashion.

'Reporters do not have complete authority to decide when sources can be kept secret,' the judge said.

...

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based group that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide, criticized the sentence.

'While Jim Taricani will not spend any time in prison, this sentence is a form of incarceration that will deny him his freedom just for doing his job,' the group's executive director, Ann Cooper, said in a statement.

Taricani was convicted for refusing to disclose the name of the person who gave him an undercover surveillance videotape that showed a former Providence, Rhode Island, official, Frank Corrente, accepting a bribe.

Taricani broke no laws by airing the videotape, which stemmed from a corruption probe of former Providence Mayor Vincent 'Buddy' Cianci, Jr. The probe resulted in Cianci and Corrente being convicted and sentenced to prison.

However, Torres said Taricani had aided and abetted a crime committed by the source, who had been under a protective order not to make public any tapes resulting from the investigation."

There you have it. Even while Torres and his sanctimonious henchman DeSisto achieved their original aim--to find out who actually leaked a worthless, obvious piece of tape--Torres can't resist teaching Taricani and the press a lesson while he's at it. This sort of authoritarian "justice" is commonplace in Rhode Island, but sadly, it seems to be all the rage these days.

Don't count me among those jumping with glee about Judith Miller's predicament. To be sure, she's a self-important, partisan hack who deserves jail for something, but those who want to send her off to Big Marge for eighteen months because she supposedly "witnessed a crime" in the Plame affair really aren't taking the big picture into account here.

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