Reporter Won’t Appeal Contempt Conviction

Dec 21, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Jim Taricani, an investigative reporter at WJAR-TV in Providence, R.I., has decided not to appeal his criminal conviction for refusing to reveal the confidential source who gave him an FBI tape of a Providence city official taking a bribe. The conviction for criminal contempt means he could be confined to his home and banned from a number of activities, including working, for as much six months.

The NBC-owned station announced Mr. Taricani’s decision, which it said was “based upon his concern for his health, his heart condition and his desire to put this matter behind him. 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.”

WJAR, which was not a party to the case against Mr. Taricani, said in the statement that it “has steadfastly supported Jim’s decision not to reveal his confidential source. As a news organization, we believe that protection is necessary to ensure that sources will continue to come forward and share important news and information — often involving corruption and wrongdoing — that the public has the right to know.”

The network also released a statement that said it respects Mr. Taricano’s health concerns and accepts his decision to not appeal. “We understand that the last several years have taken a tremendous physical and emotional toll on Jim, and it is his decision to move on with his life, serve his sentence and return to work,” the statement said.

But the network also underscored the lingering journalistic concerns. “NBC Universal has consistently supported Jim Taricani as he acted on his journalistic commitment to protect the identity of his confidential source. 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.

The network statement continued: “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.

NBC Universal said the case “underscores the need for Congress to pass a federal shield law to protect journalists from being compelled to reveal their confidential sources. Without that protection, critical information provided to a reporter from a source — which serves the public’s right to be informed — will be constrained and could ultimately be cut off.”

The station’s announcement about Mr. Taricano said the reporter “has expressed his thanks to everyone at NBC Universal, NBC 10 and the many journalists and members of the community who have stood by him throughout these proceedings.”