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Kansas reporter testifies after confidential source comes forward

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Dodge City Daily Globe reporter Claire O’Brien, who was previously fined for missing a court appearance, privately testified in Kansas…

Dodge City Daily Globe reporter Claire O’Brien, who was previously fined for missing a court appearance, privately testified in Kansas court regarding a jailhouse interview with homicide suspect Samuel Bonilla.

The confidential source – who in fact never told O’Brien his real name – revealed his identity to prosecutors and police the day after O’Brien did not show up for court on Wednesday, the Daily Globe reported.

O’Brien obtained an independent attorney specializing in media law, Mark C. Johnson of Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal in Kansas City, after she severed ties with publisher Gatehouse Media’s attorneys.

Johnson assisted her in testifying last Friday in a closed inquisition about the confidential source and her interview.

“I had reached an agreement with the prosecutor before the hearing as to the appropriate scope of the inquiry,” Johnson said in an e-mail message. “After the conclusion of her testimony, [District Judge Daniel] Love rescinded his finding of contempt and the fine against Ms. O’Brien.”

O’Brien had previously been at risk of being jailed for contempt if she did not comply with the prosecutor’s demands and had been fined $1,000 a day for missing last Wednesday’s inquisition. Prosecutor Terry Malone has not revealed the source’s identity.

Bonilla is arguing that he acted in self-defense when he shot two men, one fatally, after they allegedly tried to run him down with their vehicle while he was jogging along a local river.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reported that O’Brien testified about both a jailhouse interview and a source she had quoted who had already come forward, but did not say that she had revealed any confidential sources. In the comments below, O’Brien says she did not testify about the source.)