Sheriff Divulges Jailed Reporter’s Source’s Name
SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ The sheriff tracked down the identity of a reporter’s confidential source last week and released her name Thursday, eight days after the journalist went to jail for refusing to identify her.
Bexar County Sheriff Harlon Copeland said the source was a cousin of a capital murder suspect that KMOL-TV reporter Brian Karem interviewed by telephone from the county jail last year.
The sheriff said he learned her identity through his own investigation.
However, the disclosure had no immediate effect on Karem’s status. He has been in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center since June 27 serving a six- month term for contempt of court.
Larry Macon, Karem’s attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the contempt of court finding, but State District Judge Pat Priest told Macon in chambers that the motion was meaningless. The judge said only Karem’s statements, not those of another person, could relieve the contempt-of-court finding, according to Cathy Granados, Priest’s court coordinator.
However, a formal hearing will be set for the dismissal motion, she said.
Beth Taylor, who is prosecuting the case, agreed that the sheriff’s announcement would change nothing.
″... We have to hear it from Karem,″ she said. ″He still has to produce a piece of paper of his sources. We need to see that.″
Karem said the sheriff’s statements and the judge’s response didn’t change his position, either.
″Just because someone says they know who the third person is, I’m supposed to confirm or deny that? No. I’m not going to play that game,″ Karem said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from the jail.
″I’m not going to say who my source is ... I have a promise between myself and that source. That source has not absolved me of my promise. And if it never happens, I will never say who the source is.″
The sheriff’s surprise announcement came as scores of reporters and others gathered at the jail in a rally supporting Karem.
Copeland walked out, said he had something to say, then identified the informant as Deborah Ledesma, a cousin of Henry Hernandez, accused of killing a San Antonio police officer.
There is no Deborah Ledesma listed in San Antonio’s telephone directory so she could not be immediately reached for comment.
Copeland said Hernandez called Ms. Ledesma, who then connected Karem with Hernandez.
Lawyers in the murder trial of Hernandez and his brother, Julian, have said they have to know who arranged the interview to see if it is admissible in court.
Karem has repeatedly refused to violate the source’s confidentiality, which brought the contempt order and his jailing.
A U.S. Supreme Court justice last week declined to continue that stay. Karem has appealed the contempt citations to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Copeland said Thursday that Karem should never have been jailed.
″I just believe he has the First Amendment right, but then again I’m not a judge, I’m just the sheriff,″ he told reporters at the rally.
Copeland told reporters he discovered the source’s identity last Friday. When asked why he didn’t come forward before today’s rally by dozens of journalists, he told San Antonio Press Club vice president Joe Sandoval that he was waiting for the right opportunity, Sandoval said.
Sandoval said Copeland told him that he decided to issue the statement at the rally because he thought reporters from national news organizations would be attending.
″Various anchors from the TV stations went forth and expressed their dismay at the situation,″ Sandoval said.
A reporter at the rally carried a sign that said, ″Free speech, Free Brian.″