NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · FLORIDA · Privacy · Sep. 9, 2005
Miami journalist will not face prosecution over taping
Sep. 9, 2005 · The state of Florida will not prosecute Jim DeFede, the journalist fired from The Miami Herald after he taped a conversation with an ex-commissioner without his consent hours before the former Miami leader, Arthur Teele, killed himself in the newspaper’s lobby July 27.
“There appears to have been no malicious intent on the part of Mr. DeFede to violate the privacy rights of Mr. Teele, or to utilize the tape for any commercial purpose or to harm or to embarrass Mr. Teele,” Assistant State Attorney Joseph M. Centorino wrote in a memo, The Miami Herald reported on its Web site.
Failing to gain consent of all parties involved before taping a conversation is a felony in Florida unless it is the first offense and recording was not made for illegal purposes or financial gain.
DeFede cooperated with investigators, according to the memo.
As reported by the Herald, Centorino added: “However, it would be incorrect for anyone to assume from this result that Mr. DeFede’s actions, in tape recording a conversation without consent, were appropriate or justified. They were not. . . . It is the uniqueness of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Arthur Teele, and his last conversation with a trusted friend, which has led to the conclusion not to prosecute, rather any special journalistic privilege or legal exception accorded to Mr. DeFede.”
DeFede was fired after he told his editor that he had recorded the conversation without Teele’s consent. DeFede, apparently recognizing that Teele, a longtime source, was acting strangely, recorded the conversation. DeFede has been quoted as saying he “wanted to preserve the record.”