Joliet reporter found in contempt for not divulging source, could face jail
By Casey Toner email@example.com September 20, 2013 11:51AM
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:34AM
A Will County judge on Friday found a Joliet online reporter in contempt of court and is fining him $300 a day for not divulging how he obtained confidential police reports about a double murder in January in the city.
Circuit Court Judge Gerald Kinney gave Patch.com reporter Joseph Hosey 180 days to disclose his source, imposing the daily fine until he does so. If he declines, Hosey faces incarceration at the county jail after the six-month period, Kinney said. The judge also ordered Hosey to pay a $1,000 fine immediately plus court costs.
Hosey’s attorney, Kenneth Schmetterer, said he will appeal Kinney’s ruling to the Illinois Appellate Court, a process that could take months.
“(Illinois’) shield law is there for a reason,” Schmetterer said. “The Illinois courts have held the shield law exists to protect reporters from having to divulge confidential sources because it could have a chilling effect on the very important work journalists do.”
Kinney last month ordered Hosey to turn over all of his documents relating to the January stranglings of Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins. If the material did not reveal the source, Hosey would have to sign a sworn statement, telling who have gave him the records, when and how, the judge said.
The bodies of Glover and Rankins, both of Joliet, were found Jan. 10 in the Hickory Street home of Alisa Massaro, who is charged in the murders along with Bethany McKee, Joshua Miner and Adam Landerman.
Hosey used police reports he obtained to write 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 staffs of the defense attorneys — with all denying being Hosey’s source.
Assistant State’s Attorney Marie Czech told the judge Friday that she felt Hosey’s disclosure of the information in the police reports did not influence the grand jury’s decision to indict the four defendants.
Schmetterer recommended that Kinney charge Hosey with civil contempt and issue a “symbolic fine” of $50 to $100.
But attorney Chuck Bretz, representing McKee, argued for a stiffer penalty to try to ensure that Hosey identify his source.
Kinney agreed with Bretz, saying that a lighter punishment for Hosey may mean that “we may never reach the point where we determine the facts in his case.”
After Hosey refused to make a statement, Kinney issued his ruling, which drew audible gasps from people in the courtroom, including a few journalists.
Bretz said after Friday’s hearing that he doesn’t think “any legitimate journalist should fear the outcome of this.”
Chicago Headline Club president Fernando Diaz said the journalism organization is deeply disappointed by Kinney’s ruling. He called the $300 daily fine “outrageous” and said the organization is committed to supporting Hosey.
“The judge should be aware that Hosey is not on trial,” Diaz said. “Taking the focus off the actual case in my opinion represents a miscarriage of justice. The focus is on putting Hosey behind bars as opposed to determining who is the criminal.”
David Cuillier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, called Kinney’s order and fine an “absolute outrage and an affront to a free press and everything this nation holds dear. I can’t believe an Illinois judge, or any American for that matter, would think it’s OK to imprison and bankrupt a person for doing his or her job well. That’s something I would expect in a Third World country, not here.”
Linda Petersen, chair of the society’s freedom of information committee, said the confidentiality of a journalist’s sources is necessary to maintain a transparent government.
“Some of the most important public policy issues and problems in our country were exposed through confidential sources,” Petersen said. “If we don’t protect that process, then sources will keep quiet and the public will suffer.”
Hosey is a former reporter for The Herald-News. His wife, Janet Lundquist, is a reporter for the newspaper.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media