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‘Professional men’ on escort service list keep names sealed

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         PENNSYLVANIA         Secret Courts         Aug 9, 2001    

‘Professional men’ on escort service list keep names sealed

  • Two men from whose telephones calls were made to an escort service may keep their names secret, because the revelations would be severely “painful” because they are professional men.

Names of two “licensed professional men” “with families,” whose telephone numbers were uncovered among those contacting a telephone number registered of an escort service, will continue to be withheld, a Uniontown trial judge ruled in late July, after hearing testimony from a psychologist that the men would experience “severe pain from anxiety, fear and guilt” if their names were disclosed.

Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon a year ago filed with the court clerk 93 pages of phone logs listing more than 1,800 calls to the service from several hundred individuals and businesses. The records were gathered in the investigation of former Fayette County Commissioner Susanne Teslovich of Menallen Township, who is accused of running a prostitution ring. All the records except for the two names are open to the public. Common Pleas Court Judge Gerald Solomon sealed the records of the two names upon request by lawyers for the men.

The Greensburg Tribune Review sued for the names in Solomon’s court. A superior court in Pittsburgh ordered Solomon to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether any right of public access would be outweighed by potential harm and prejudice to the reputation and privacy interests of the two men.

In his ruling, Solomon relied heavily on testimony by psychologist Paul Bernstein that in light of the fact that the men were professional persons, with professional licenses and practices, publication would go beyond embarrassment and cause severe pain and harm to the two men, who have not been charged. He said that the seal would be lifted if either were called to testify or were charged.

Solomon also cited testimony from Assistant District Attorney Mark Brooks that the list had attracted strong media attention and that the public’s perception was that if a person called the escort service, he was seeking an escort.

(Commonwealth v. Teslovich v. Tribune Review Publishing Co.; Media Counsel: Ronald Barber, Pittsburgh) RD

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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