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Detroit reporter seeks in-camera review for source fight

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter wants to explain privately to a federal judge in Michigan his reasons for invoking…

Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter wants to explain privately to a federal judge in Michigan his reasons for invoking the Fifth Amendment to protect his confidential sources.

Ashenfelter, in an emergency motion before Judge Robert Cleland on Tuesday, asked for permission to explain in camera why his assertion of the Fifth Amendment during a December deposition was appropriate. The filing came in response to Cleland’s ruling last week ordering the reporter to specify why he fears prosecution.

Richard Convertino, who was investigated by the Department of Justice for his conduct while prosecuting the first terrorism case after Sept. 11, is seeking Ashenfelter’s testimony in his Privacy Act lawsuit against the government. For about two years, Ashenfelter has been battling to keep from having to reveal the sources who leaked him information about the Convertino investigation.

Herschel Fink, Ashenfelter’s attorney, argued to the court that in camera review is appropriate because Cleland suggested it in last week’s ruling. Cleland ordered Ashenfelter to testify at another deposition, or to provide information to the court in camera explaining why Ashenfelter fears prosecution for testifying.

The motion asks the court to accept an affidavit explaining “factual information that supports Ashenfelter’s reliance on the Fifth Amendment privilege.” Additionally, the papers ask that Ashenfelter be allowed to submit further arguments, either written or oral, to the judge.

If the judge grants the motion, neither the public nor Convertino would be privy to those arguments.