Ohio reporter jailed for refusing to testify before grand jury
OHIO — In mid-January a state judge in Warren jailed a reporter who refused to testify before a grand jury investigating a county official she had interviewed.
The Common Pleas Court trial judge found reporter Lisa Abraham of the Tribune Chronicle in Warren in contempt in early November after she refused to testify regarding an article published last summer in the paper. The official’s statements in the article concerning the renovation of his offices allegedly contradicted statements he made later in a press release.
The grand jury ultimately indicted the official on several counts, including forgery, tampering with records, complicity to theft in office and dereliction of duty, the Associated Press reported.
Although Abraham did not promise the official confidentiality, she maintained that reporters should not be forced to participate in secret grand jury investigations unless the state passes a strict test of need for the information.
In late November the Ohio Court of Appeals in Warren affirmed the finding of contempt. In mid-January the state Supreme Court in Columbus refused to hear the case. When Abraham still refused to testify, the trial court held her in civil contempt and ordered her to jail.
Abraham’s attorney, Charles Richards, said in an interview that she could remain in jail until the term of the grand jury expires in mid-February.
Richards noted that the official Abraham interviewed has already been indicted without her testimony. Arguing that the subpoena thus serves no legitimate purpose, Richards has asked the trial court and the appeals court to reconsider their rulings.
(In re Grand Jury Witness Subpoena of Lisa Abraham; Media Counsel: Charles Richards, Warren)