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Reporter ordered jailed, fined again in Plame investigation

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Confidentiality/Privilege    

Reporter ordered jailed, fined again in Plame investigation

  • Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper is held in contempt for a second time for refusing to disclose information about confidential sources in the investigation into the government leak of a CIA operative’s identity.

Oct. 14, 2004 — U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ordered reporter Matthew Cooper of Time magazine jailed yesterday for refusing to disclose information about confidential sources. This is the second time Hogan has held Cooper in contempt in the government’s investigation into who leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media.

Hogan Wednesday ordered Cooper imprisoned and fined $1,000 a day for up to 18 months or until he complies with a subpoena issued by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald and turns over notes relating to his confidential sources. The fine and sentence have been stayed pending Cooper’s appeal.

Hogan, in repeatedly rejecting a First Amendment-based privilege as defense against testifying about confidential sources, has cited a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Branzburg v. Hayes which says that the First Amendment does not protect journalists from appearing before grand juries.

Cooper was held in contempt for the first time on Aug. 6 but the citation was voided after Cooper reached a deal with Fitzgerald to testify narrowly about conversations with Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Cooper testified Aug. 23, but only after he was convinced that Libby voluntarily waived their confidentiality agreement.

On Sept. 14, Cooper was subpoenaed again, this time for notes about his other confidential sources. Prosecutors sought the second subpoena because of questions that arose during Cooper’s testimony, The Washington Post reported.

The identity of Plame was first revealed by columnist Robert Novak in a July 14, 2003, column. Novak has refused to say whether he has been subpoenaed or has testified in the case.

Cooper’s latest contempt citation came one week after Hogan held New York Times reporter Judith Miller in contempt Oct. 7 for refusing to testify about her confidential sources. Miller researched, but never wrote, a story on the Plame matter. Her jailing and $1,000 a day fine have also been stayed pending an appeal.

Miller and Cooper’s appeals will be combined, according to New York Times attorney George Freeman. Briefing before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., will be completed by Nov. 10. Freeman anticipates oral arguments and a decision within weeks rather than months after the filings.

(In re Special Counsel Investigation; Media Counsel: Floyd Abrams, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, LLP, New York City) GP

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