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Houston reporter to face contempt charge

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Houston reporter to face contempt charge04/22/96 TEXAS--The U.S. Supreme Court in early April declined to hear an appeal by a…

Houston reporter to face contempt charge

04/22/96

TEXAS–The U.S. Supreme Court in early April declined to hear an appeal by a Houston television reporter who claimed a First Amendment privilege shielded him from having to divulge his confidential source.

The reporter, Wayne Dolcefino, is now scheduled to testify at a deposition on April 19. Dolcefino’s attorney, Charles “Chip” Babcock, said he expects that Dolcefino will continue to refuse to testify about the identity of his sources. If he does so, Dolcefino may be held in contempt of court and face imprisonment or a fine.

Sylvester Turner, a former state legislator and Houston mayoral candidate, is seeking Dolcefino’s testimony as part of the slander suit he brought against Dolcefino in 1992, after Dolcefino reported in December 1991 on Turner’s alleged connection with an insurance scam. Turner claimed that the story was planted by Peary Perry, a member of the campaign of Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, Turner’s political opponent.

During pre-trial depositions, Dolcefino consistently refused to reveal the source for the story. After a Harris County judge ordered him to divulge his source or face contempt, Dolcefino appealed to the Texas Court of Appeals in Houston, arguing that he was protected by a qualified reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment and the Texas constitution.

In mid-June, the Court of Appeals expressed doubt that a reporter’s privilege exists under the federal or state constitution and upheld the trial court’s order.

In November 1995, the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear Dolcefino’s appeal. Dolcefino appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in early February. (Dolcefino v. Ray; Media Counsel: Charles Babcock, Houston)