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Reporters sentenced for contacting, identifying jurors

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    NMU         NEW JERSEY         Prior Restraints         Jun 20, 2002    

Reporters sentenced for contacting, identifying jurors

  • Philadelphia Inquirer reporters were fined, given suspended jail terms, and ordered to perform community service after they identified jurors in spite of a judicial order not to.

A trial judge in New Jersey has sentenced four Philadelphia Inquirer reporters following the contempt of court conviction for violating an order not to contact or identify jurors in the Rabbi Fred Neulander murder trial.

George Anastasia, Joseph Gambardello, Emilie Lounsberry and Dwight Ott were each fined $1,000 for publishing the name of one of the jurors. Anastasia, Lounsberry and Ott were also sentenced to six months in jail for attempting to contact jurors, but the jail sentence was partially suspended. The three reporters are instead required to perform community service. Anastasia was given five days of community service, and Ott and Lounsberry were each given 10 days in a community clean-up program administered by the sheriff’s department. Gambardello was not sentenced to jail or community service because there was no evidence that he attempted to contact a juror.

The case involved Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, who was accused of arranging his wife’s killing. The trial ended in a mistrial in November. The trial judge, Linda Baxter, ordered the press not to attempt to contact or identify any juror from that trial.

Judge Theodore Z. Davis on Monday found the reporters guilty of violating the order and held them in contempt. The maximum penalty for contempt is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The reporters who were given the suspended sentence could be sent to jail for six months if they violate the order again.

Lawyers for the reporters said they would appeal.

(New Jersey v. Anastasia, et al.) AG

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