|News Media Update||RHODE ISLAND||Confidentiality/Privilege|
Confidential source of videotape revealed
- A defense attorney has come forward as the source of a videotape leaked to reporter Jim Taricani who faces sentencing next week for refusing to reveal the source
Dec. 2, 2004 — A defense attorney for a former Providence, R.I., tax official convicted in a city corruption scandal has revealed himself as the source of videotaped FBI evidence leaked to WJAR television reporter Jim Taricani. Taricani faces sentencing next week for criminal contempt of court for refusing to reveal his source.
Joseph A. Bevilacqua Jr., who defended former tax official Joseph A. Pannone, denied under oath in February 2002 that he was Taricani’s source. Bevilacqua admitted to special prosecutor Marc DeSisto on Nov. 24 that he was the source, but that he never asked Taricani for confidentiality, according to court documents filed Dec. 1.
Taricani confirmed Nov. 30 that Bevilaqua was the source of the videotape, which was aired in 2001 and showed a top aide to former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. taking a bribe.
“I am surprised and disappointed by the story Mr. Bevilacqua has provided the Special Prosecutor,” Taricani said in a statement. “I would never have jeopardized my health and reputation, and put my family and my company through this ordeal, if my source had not required a promise of confidentiality.”
Taricani received a heart transplant in 1996 and must adhere to a strict medication regimen to control his immune system.
DeSisto deduced that Bevilacqua was the source the morning of Taricani’s Nov. 18 criminal contempt trial, after Taricani told an FBI agent that his source had signed a confidentiality waiver, but that he would still not reveal the source’s identity because the waiver might not be voluntary. The only waiver Taricani had been shown was Bevilacqua’s.
DeSisto told Taricani he had deduced the source before the trial, but Taricani still refused to identify the source. DeSisto then questioned Bevilacqua, who admitted being the source.
The leak investigation began after WJAR in February 2001 aired a portion of the videotape showing Providence city official Frank E. Corrente accepting a bribe from an undercover FBI informant. The tape was sealed evidence in an FBI investigation into corruption by Providence officials, including Cianci, who along with Corrente and Pannone, was later convicted.
DeSisto subpoenaed Taricani, but he refused to reveal his source, and was held in civil contempt by U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres on March 16. After a failed appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.), Tariciani began paying a $1,000-a-day fine Aug. 12. The fines, paid by NBC, reached $85,000.
On Nov. 4, Torres stayed the fines because they failed to coerce Taricani to testify, and gave him two weeks to reveal his source or face criminal contempt charges. Taricani refused and was tried and convicted Nov. 18. At his Dec. 9 sentencing, he could receive up to 6 months in prison, but DeSisto is recommending probation and house arrest because of Taricani’s health.
(In re special proceedings; Media Counsel: Jonathan Albano, Boston, Mass.) — GP
- Reporter convicted of criminal contempt (11/22/2004)
© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press