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Time Inc. to turn over subpoenaed documents to grand jury

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   WASHINGTON, D.C.   ·   Confidentiality/Privilege   ·   June 30, 2005

Time Inc. to turn over subpoenaed documents to grand jury

  • The magazine publisher announced that it will comply with a court order to reveal reporter Matthew Cooper’s confidential sources to a federal grand jury investigating the leak of an undercover CIA agent’s identity to the news media.

June 30, 2005  ·   Under threat of a steep fine and jail time for one of its reporters, Time Inc. will comply with a court order and turn over subpoenaed records to a federal grand jury investigating who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to journalists, the magazine’s editor in chief said today.

“The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments,” Norman Pearlstine said in a statement this morning. “That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.”

Turning over the documents, which would reveal reporter Matthew Cooper’s anonymous source, “obviates the need for Matt Cooper to testify and certainly removes any justification for incarceration,” Pearlstine said in the statement.

Cooper, along with The New York Times’ Judith Miller, were subpoenaed by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in a grand jury investigation into who leaked Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak and other reporters in July 2003. Miller, Cooper and Time refused to comply with the subpoenas and were held in contempt. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., refused to overturn the contempt citations and Monday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision.

New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement that the company is “deeply disappointed” by Time Inc.’s decision.

At a 30-minute hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said he would enforce fines and jail sentences if documents and the identity of confidential sources were not turned over to the grand jury.

The reporters face jail time of four months, the time remaining on the grand jury, although they could be jailed again after a new grand jury is empaneled. Time also faces substantial fines that Hogan said might be applied retroactively, but did not specify a start date.

Cooper said after Wednesday’s hearing that he intends to accept jail time but as to his employer complying with the court order said: “I would rather they did not, but they have to make their own decision. . . . It’s an honorable one whatever they decide.”

Miller has repeatedly said she will go to jail rather than reveal the source. One of her lawyers, Robert Bennett, told Judge Hogan Wednesday: “I suppose I’m hoping that there will be some residual effect on Ms. Miller” if Time turns over subpoenaed documents.

Pearlstine ended his statement supporting the push in Congress for a federal shield law.

“Although we shall comply with the order to turn over the subpoenaed records, we shall continue to support the protection of confidential sources. We do so with the knowledge that forty-nine states and the District of Columbia now recognize some form of protection for confidential sources, and that legislation is now pending in Congress to enact a federal shield law for confidential sources.”

Sulzberger added in his statement that the Times “faced similar pressures in 1978 when both our reporter Myron Farber and The Times Company were held in contempt of court for refusing to provide the names of confidential sources. Mr. Farber served 40 days in jail and we were forced to pay significant fines.” The incident helped spark passage of a shield law in New Jersey, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

(In re Special Counsel Investigation; Media Counsel: Floyd Abrams, New York City, Robert Bennett, Washington, D.C., for Judith Miller; Theodore Boutrous, Washington, D.C., for Time magazine; Richard Sauber, Washington, D.C., for Matt Cooper)GP

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