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UPDATE: NORTH CAROLINA

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UPDATE: NORTH CAROLINA 03/09/98 In late February, reporter Kirsten Mitchell was fined $1,000 for publishing the details of a secret…

UPDATE: NORTH CAROLINA

03/09/98

In late February, reporter Kirsten Mitchell was fined $1,000 for publishing the details of a secret settlement agreement contained in a sealed document included in the court file that was given to her by a clerk in federal district court in Raleigh.

Mitchell, a reporter with the (Wilmington) Morning Star, was held in criminal and civil contempt in mid-January by U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt for violating his order sealing the agreement between Conoco Inc. and residents of a Wrightsboro trailerpark. The residents had filed a lawsuit claiming that a Conoco gas leak contaminated their water supply.

Britt could have imposed a six month prison term and a $5,000 fine against Mitchell for the criminal contempt conviction.

The New York Times Company, which owns the Morning Star, is appealing to the federal appeals court in Richmond (4th. Cir.). (Ashcraft v. Conoco; Media Counsel: Mark Prak, Raleigh)