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Journalist jailed for protecting confidential source

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    NMU         NINTH CIRCUIT         Confidentiality/Privilege         Feb 28, 2000    

Journalist jailed for protecting confidential source

  • Journalist Tim Crews reported to jail Saturday after several courts refused to stay a state judge’s contempt order issued after Crews declined to identify his source for allegations about police corruption.

Sacramento Valley Mirror editor and publisher Tim Crews reported to jail Saturday for refusing to reveal his confidential source for a story involving the sale of an allegedly stolen firearm by a state patrol officer. Crews was sentenced to five days in jail.

Tehama County Superior Court Judge Noel Watkins originally ordered Crews to be held in contempt and to report to jail on Feb. 7. Watkins then stayed the enforcement of his sentence until Feb. 24 to allow the California Supreme Court time to review Crews’ case.

Crews filed two petitions for review with the California Supreme Court asking the state high court to review the contempt order. However, the state Supreme Court decided to let Crews’ sentence stand.

Crews then filed a habeas corpus petition in federal court in Sacramento, but the judge denied the motion on Feb. 25. Crews immediately appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.), but the federal appellate court did not stay the decision and Crews reported to the Tehama County Jail Saturday morning.

Crews was held in contempt and ordered to jail after refusing to reveal his source for a story relating to a theft charge against California Highway Patrol officer Dewey Anderson. Anderson has pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges relating to an allegedly stolen firearm. Anderson said he needed Crews’ testimony about his earlier story to establish that authorities knew about the allegations years ago, and the statute of limitations thus prevented prosecution.

Crews reported in the Valley Mirror that he was informed by officers that Anderson had stolen a handgun and that he was read portions of a written report concerning Anderson. The trial court found that the need of Anderson’s defense attorneys to know the identity of Crews’ sources outweighs Crews’ protection under California’s shield law.

Several media outlets, including The Copley Press, Inc., The Hearst Corp., Knight Ridder Inc., The Los Angeles Times, The McClatchy Co., The Orange County Register, The Press Democrat of San Rosa, Santa Barbara News-Press, The Press-Enterprise Co., California Newspaper Publishers Association , the California First Amendment Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists, filed an amicus brief with the federal appellate court. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a letter in support of Crews’ petition before the state Supreme Court.

(Crews v. Tehama County Superior Court; Media Counsel: Charity Kenyon, Sacramento)

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© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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