|NMU||COLORADO||Newsgathering||Nov 9, 2000|
Prosecutor drops bribery charges against tabloid editor
- University journalism students will benefit from a magazine’s donation in a creative disposition of a case charging an editor with bribery.
A tabloid magazine has agreed to donate $100,000 to the University of Colorado’s journalism school in a deal that will have prosecutors drop commercial bribery charges against one of its editors.
In an agreement reached on Nov. 8, the District Attorney’s office in Jefferson County, Colo., agreed to drop charges against Globe editor Craig Lewis, who was accused of offering $30,000 to a handwriting expert in exchange for a copy of the ransom note in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation.
In exchange, the magazine agreed to give the school $100,000 for the study of journalism ethics.
“This was a good resolution,” said Lewis’ attorney, Jeffery Pagliuca.
While Pagliuca said the deal was a group effort between prosecutors and defense attorneys, the idea of donation to the university came primarily from Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas.
“I think it’s creative,” Pagliuca said.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Thomas called the agreement “very unusual.”
The money will be invested into the school’s endowment and will be used to bring in guest lecturers to speak on journalism ethics.
Stewart Hoover, the school’s interim dean, said faculty members were uneasy about the possible association with the Globe, but agreed that the money could be put to good use.
“We felt like we were making lemonade out of lemons,” Hoover said.
As part of the deal, the Globe admitted its conduct was wrong and the prosecutors agreed to drop charges against the publication and Lewis.
“Craig has not agreed that anything he did was illegal,” Pagliuca added.
In court documents, attorneys for Lewis and the Globe argued that the state law that prohibits commercial bribery is unconstitutional because it interferes with the First Amendment protection for newsgathering by making it illegal to give a news source anything of value.
Because of the settlement the constitutional and ethical issues raised in the case will not be decided this time, but Pagliuca hopes the donation will allow journalism students to discuss and study the case.
“We think that challenge has substantial merit, but that’s not going to be decided,” Pagliuca said. “The charges against Mr. Lewis were dismissed and that’s what we wanted.”
(Colorado v. Lewis) — LR
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press