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Editor spends two weeks in jail for refusing to disclose letter

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
A California newspaper editor spent 13 days in jail after first refusing to turn over a letter to the editor.

The editor of a northern California weekly newspaper spent 13 days in jail after he first refused to turn over a letter to the editor and an accompanying envelope to the Mendocino County Superior Court in Ukiah, and later turned over a letter that the judge decided was not the original.

Bruce Anderson, editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, was released in early June after his wife and a reporter testified that the letter he surrendered was the original letter to the editor he had received from accused murderer Eugene “Bear” Lincoln.

Anderson attempted to turn over the letter following his first week of incarceration, but Judge James Luther decided the letter was not the original because it was typewritten and Lincoln did not have access to a typewriter in jail.

The judge ordered Anderson to produce the letter in late May after ruling that it was relevant evidence in Lincoln’s murder trial and that only the original could be used as evidence. The judge held that the California shield law did protect Anderson because the letter to the editor already had been published.

The Court of Appeal in San Francisco refused to hear Anderson’s appeal. In late May, the California Supreme Court denied the appeal over the dissent of a single justice.

In an interview after his release, Anderson said he believed that the district attorney wanted to discover his source — the person who had provided him with the letter. Anderson will not reveal how or when he received the letter.

Lincoln is accused of killing a sheriff’s deputy in a shootout on an Indian reservation in April 1995. Lincoln’s trial is scheduled to begin in late August. (People v. Lincoln; Media Counsel: Carl Schapiro, Ukiah)

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