The person who passed a confidential FBI videotape to reporter Jim Taricani of WJAR-TV, lawyer Joseph A. Bevilacqua Jr., has identified himself to the authorities. An expert said this could result in the dropping of the case against Taricani for refusing to reveal his source. He was found in contempt of court on 18 November and sentencing was due on 9 December.
19.11.2004 - Jim Taricani found guilty of criminal contempt of court
Reporter Jim Taricani of WJAR-TV, who is refusing to name the person who gave him a videotape that was made in the course of an FBI undercover investigation into corruption, was found guilty of criminal contempt of court at the end of a 45-minute appearance before federal judge Ernest C. Torres yesterday and is now facing the possibility of six months in prison. The sentence will be announced on 9 December. The judge said, however, that it will take account of Taricani’s health. The reporter underwent heart surgery in 1996.
The Democratic senator for Connecticut, Christopher J. Dodd, meanwhile today presented a bill on the protection of sources. It would prohibit federal courts, congress and the executive from forcing journalists to reveal their sources, whether or not they had promised confidentiality. The ban would include journalists’ notes, negatives and files. According to the bill, journalists would only be forced to a reveal a source if this information was decisive in a legal case, could not be obtained elsewhere and was of absolutely vital public interest.
Dodd presented the bill on his own at the end of the congressional session, but promised to re-submit it at the start of the next session in January. He hopes to obtained bipartisan support, pointing out that several Republican-led states have laws protecting sources. In all, 31 states and the District of Columbia have such laws, but so far there is no federal legislation.
17.11.2004 - Reporter faces six months jail for not revealing his source
Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today at a federal judge’s threat to imprison journalist Jim Taricani, of the Providence (Rhode Island) NBC TV station WJAR-TV, for up to six months if he did not say by tomorrow who gave him a secret FBI videotape made during a corruption enquiry.
"If journalists have to reveal their confidential sources, nobody will risk telling them anything," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "The privacy of sources is at the heart of freedom of expression and we hope the judge will not carry out his threat.
"The fine of more than $75,000 imposed on Taricani will clearly discourage journalists from publishing sensitive information despite its possible value to the public and society," it said.
Federal judge Ernest C. Torres ordered Taricani to pay a rolling fine of $1,000 a day on August 12, which amounted to more than $75,000 before the judge cancelled the fine on November 4, rejecting the prosecution’s call for the fine to be doubled.
He then gave Taricani 14 days to reveal his source, after which he would be found guilty of contempt of court, which would thus be considered a criminal and not a civil offense and so punishable by up to six months in prison.
Taricani refuses to tell the court who gave him the tape, which was broadcast on February 1st and showed a former top state official taking a bribe from an FBI informant.
Another judge last month ordered the jailing of Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to say who illegally revealed to them the name of a CIA agent. Cooper was also fined $1,000 a day for the next 18 months or until he revealed the source. Both journalists have appealed, automatically suspending their sentences.