Judge: Reporter must reveal source of police reports in Joliet double murder
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org August 30, 2013 11:24AM
Adam M. Landerman (clockwise, from top left), Alisa R. Massaro, Joshua F. Miner and Bethany L. McKee | Supplied photos
Updated: October 2, 2013 6:33AM
A Will County judge has ordered a reporter to reveal the source who provided him with copies of police reports in a sensational double murder in Joliet.
Will County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Kinney on Friday ruled that patch.com reporter Joseph Hosey must hand over all of his documents relating to the January stranglings of Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins. If the documents do not reveal his source, then Hosey must provide Kinney with an affidavit telling him who provided him with the records, when and how, according to the ruling.
Hosey’s attorney said he will appeal.
The bodies of Glover and Rankins, both of Joliet, were found Jan. 10 in the Hickory Street home of Alisa Massaro. Massaro is charged in the murders, along with Bethany McKee, Joshua Miner and Adam Landerman.
Hosey used a set of police reports he obtained to write a series of stories about the killings. McKee’s lawyers want to know who leaked the reports and asked the judge to require Hosey to be questioned under oath.
Hosey first exposed the salacious claims that Massaro and Miner had sex on the bodies of the victims. A source has confirmed for the Chicago Sun-Times that the detail appears in the reports, which contain conflicting interviews.
More than 500 sworn statements were submitted by members of the Joliet Police Department, Will County State’s Attorney’s office, and the staff of the attorneys representing the defendants. Everyone stated they were not the source.
If the source is an attorney or a member of an attorney’s staff, Kinney wrote, Supreme Court rules regarding discovery have been violated.
The timing of the stories also creates a concern that the secrecy of grand jury proceedings was violated, Kinney wrote.
“Based upon the procedures followed by Court in obtaining sworn affidavits from all individuals potentially involved in the release of the information, all other available sources of information have been exhausted, and disclosure of the information sought is essential to the protection of the public interest involved,” Kinney wrote.
Kinney has ordered Hosey to comply with his order within 21 days. The case is scheduled for a status appearance on Sept. 3.
Ken Schmetterer, Hosey’s attorney, argued in court this month that divesting a news reporter of the privilege to protect his sources under Illinois law should only be done in “very rare, very extreme, last resort circumstances.”
At that hearing, Neil Patel, an attorney for McKee, didn’t deny that putting Hosey on the stand would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment. But he said his client’s rights to a fair trial and due process might have been violated.
In response to the judge’s decision, Patel, in a voicemail message to a Joliet Herald-News reporter, said, “We are pleased with the judge’s ruling and feel it is an appropriate ruling given the situation in this case.”
Schmetterer said, “We respectfully disagree with the decision. We think the reporters’ shield law applies here, and we intend to appeal the case.”
Don Craven, an attorney with the Illinois Press Association, said courts must show that they have exhausted other sources before forcing a reporter to reveal a source. Craven is not involved in the Joliet case but has represented reporters in similar matters.
Courts also need to show that revealing the source is important to the case at trial, he said.
“It looks to me like we’re dealing with a tangential issue of who leaked this,” Craven said. “How does that affect the case in chief?”
Kinney addressed the relevance by saying the leak could have been a violation of law and rules governing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, and said it was a matter likely to be raised in an appeal of any convictions in the case.
“Although the Court has indicated that these inquiries may be off topic when it comes to focusing four defendants charged with murder,” Kinney wrote, “the Court in no way believes that this inquiry is off the topic in determining whether or not there have been violations of Illinois law or Supreme Court Rules. In the event that these charges lead to a conviction, identifying the source of this information will become an issue on appeal or in a postconviction petition.”
Kinney also wrote that he is aware of the “duty and obligation to protect the First Amendment Rights of the reporters, but cannot envision where those rights are superior to the fair trial rights of individuals charged by the State with the most serious criminal offenses.”
The Chicago Headline Club’s board of directors issued a statement criticizing Kinney’s ruling.
“The ability of a journalist to protect his/her sources when necessary is a crucial tool in the collection of information to establish facts and verify truth,” the statement said. “The CHC strongly opposes Will County Circuit Judge Gerald Kinney’s order that Joseph Hosey of patch.com violate his promise of confidentiality by revealing sources for his stories on the Joliet murders. CHC calls on Judge Kinney to withdraw the order issued to reporter Joseph Hosey.”
Contributing: Bob Okon and Sun-Times Media