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Judge asked to hold Ashenfelter in contempt

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino has asked a judge in Michigan to hold Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter in…

Former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino has asked a judge in Michigan to hold Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter in contempt for refusing to reveal his confidential sources during a deposition last month.

Convertino asked the court to fine Ashenfelter $500 a day for the first week he refuses to disclose his sources, $1,000 a day the following week, and $5,000 for each subsequent day, the Detroit News reported. The proposed fines mirror those imposed against Toni Locy in the Steven Hatfill case.

Ashenfelter refused to answer questions at the Dec. 8 deposition in Convertino’s Privacy Act lawsuit against the Department of Justice. Convertino had subpoenaed Ashenfelter for the identity of sources he used in a 2004 article on a Department of Justice investigation into Convertino’s conduct during a terrorism prosecution.

When Judge Robert H. Cleland dismissed Ashenfelter’s argument that a First Amendment reporter’s privilege protected him from having to reveal his sources, Ashenfelter invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He argued that if he revealed the source of the leak he may incriminate himself, since that type of government leak is a federal crime and Convertino has previously alleged that Ashenfelter aided the leaker in committing that crime.

Convertino’s attorney, Stephen Kohn, argued that Ashenfelter’s use of the Fifth Amendment was improper.

"We disagree with Mr. Kohn’s statement of both the facts and the applicable law, and we’ll respond appropriately in court," said Ashenfelter’s attorney, Herschel Fink.