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Reporter will not appeal criminal contempt conviction

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Reporter will not appeal criminal contempt conviction

  • Investigative reporter Jim Taricani will not appeal his criminal contempt conviction and six-month home confinement sentence for refusing to reveal a confidential source.

Dec. 21, 2004 — Citing health concerns and a desire to put the matter behind him and return to work, investigative reporter Jim Taricani of WJAR television in Providence, R.I., decided today that he would not appeal his recent criminal contempt-of-court conviction.

Taricani was sentenced to six-months home confinement by U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres for refusing to reveal the confidential source of a videotape aired by WJAR showing a Providence official taking a bribe from an FBI informant.

According to a statement issued by WJAR, “The last several years have taken a tremendous physical and emotional toll on Jim and his family, and he is looking forward to getting on with his life and getting back to work.”

Taricani received a heart transplant in 1996 and must adhere to a strict medication regimen to control his immune system

NBC Universal, the parent company of WJAR, also issued a statement in support of Taricani.

“We believe Jim’s criminal contempt conviction and sentence should be reviewed by the court of appeals because the severe punishment imposed on him is not warranted. In NBC Universal’s view, the key factors weighing against severe punishment were: the corrupt government officials involved in the original case were convicted; no claim was ever made by those convicted that the airing of the videotape compromised the trial; by the time of the contempt sentencing, the source had come forward and a civil contempt fine had already been paid. However, we respect Jim’s health concerns and accept his decision not to seek an appeal.”

The leak investigation began after WJAR in February 2001 aired a portion of the videotape showing Providence city official Frank E. Corrente accepting a bribe from an undercover FBI informant. The tape was sealed evidence in an FBI investigation into corruption by Providence officials, including former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr., who along with Corrente was later convicted.

Special Prosecutor Marc DeSisto subpoenaed Taricani, but he refused to reveal his source, and Torres held him in civil contempt in March. After a failed appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.), Tariciani began paying a $1,000-a-day fine Aug. 12. The fines, paid by NBC, reached $85,000.

On Nov. 4, Torres stayed the fines because they failed to coerce Taricani to testify, and gave him two weeks to reveal his source or face criminal contempt charges. Taricani refused and was tried and convicted Nov. 18.

DeSisto deduced that the source of the videotape was Joseph A. Bevilaqua, Jr., the defense attorney for a former Providence tax official convicted in the scandal, but Torres nonetheless sentenced Taricani on Dec. 9.

As conditions of his confinement, which Torres said are supposed to mimic a federal prison sentence, Taricani is allowed to leave home only to visit doctors, and will be allowed visitors only from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Taricani will not be able to give interviews, work, or use the Internet. He may petition the court for early release after four months.

(In re special proceedings; Media Counsel: Jonathan Albano, Boston) GP

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