Former reporter held in contempt over refusal to reveal source
CALIFORNIA–A trial judge in San Bernardino in early November ordered a former journalist, who now teaches social studies to seventh-graders, to spend five days in jail for refusing to identify a confidential source he used two years ago in a series of stories about a proposed landfill project and the agricultural company that opposed the project. The order, however, has been stayed pending appeal, according to Los Angeles Times and Associated Press reports.
The reporter, John Rezendes-Herrick, covered a story about a landfill plan in 1995 for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario that became the subject of a San Bernardino County grand jury investigation. The grand jury investigated accusations against Waste Management Inc., the nation’s largest waste-removal firm, involving stock fraud, wiretapping, and illegal use of trade secrets, and returned a 23-count indictment in October.
Waste Management Inc. supported the landfill plan and has been accused of unlawfully attempting to drive down the value of an agricultural company’s stock so the company would be unable to fund a public campaign in opposition to the landfill. The company was growing, harvesting, and packaging agricultural products within five miles of the proposed landfill and feared ground and water pollution.
Rezendes-Herrick appeared before the grand jury in early October but refused to answer questions about the identity of his source. Rezendes-Herrick has invoked the protections of the California shield law, which provides qualified protection for confidential and non- confidential information, and he is appealing the jail sentence. The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press have reported that Rezendes-Herrik has not made a final decision regarding what he will do if forced to choose between revealing his source and going to jail. (Media Counsel: James Manning, Jr., Riverside)