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Prosecutors question fired reporter over taped phone call

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   FLORIDA   ·   Privacy   ·   Aug. 3, 2005

NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   FLORIDA   ·   Privacy   ·   Aug. 3, 2005

Prosecutors question fired reporter over taped phone call

  • State prosecutors are investigating a fired Miami Herald columnist who taped a conversation with a local politician hours before he shot himself in the newspaper’s lobby.

Aug. 3, 2005  ·   State investigators are looking into a tape made by former Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede of the last known phone conversation of the former Miami and Miami-Dade County commissioner who shot himself to death in the newspaper lobby Wednesday, July 27.

DeFede was fired after he told his editor that he had recorded the conversation without Arthur Teele’s consent, The Miami Herald reported. 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.”

Failing to gain consent of all parties involved before taping a conversation is a felony in Florida unless it is the first offense and the recording was not made for illegal purposes or financial gain. Ed Griffith, spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office in Miami-Dade, said it would be a misdemeanor in this case. There is an exception for in-person communications where the speaker cannot reasonably expect no one will be taping, but that provision does not apply to electronic communications, including phone calls.

DeFede met with investigators Friday, Griffith said.

“He came voluntarily, with his lawyer,” he said. “The conversation dealt mostly with matters concerning former Commissioner Teele’s suicide.”

Griffith said he was not aware of any plans to speak to DeFede again and he declined to say whether prosecutors plan to subpoena the tape.

Miami Herald Publisher Jesus Diaz Jr., is expecting a subpoena, according to the Herald, which reported that police had asked him to turn over the tape as part of their investigation. Diaz refused. The Herald does not turn over unpublished notes, and Teele had said the conversation was off the record. It is unclear who possesses the tape and the notes, and calls to the Herald were not returned.

“We expect we will get subpoenaed and we will say we will not meet the subpoena and we’ll end up in court,” Diaz told the Herald.


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