Judge Lifts Gag Order on Patriarca Tapes
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A federal judge lifted a gag order Tuesday aimed at stopping a newspaper and television station from reporting on illegally recorded FBI tapes of reputed New England mob boss Raymond J. ″Junior″ Patriarca.
But U.S. District Judge Francis J. Boyle ordered the FBI not to release any more transcripts and notes from the 20-year-old tapes pending a full hearing.
Last week, Boyle issued a temporary restraining order against The Providence Journal and WJAR-TV, saying stories based on the information that they had already received might violate Patriarca’s constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.
But since then, Boyle said, his review of U.S. Supreme Court decisions indicates the high court would uphold the media’s right to report on the tapes.
″Overall it was a victory for the press because it was a very serious question of whether this court would continue to restrain the publication of information which the press had lawfully obtained,″ said Joseph V. Cavanagh Jr., attorney for WJAR. ″It was a First Amendment right that was absolute.″
The tapes were made from an electronic bugging device illegally planted by the FBI in the Providence office of Patriarca’s father, Raymond L.S. Patriarca, from March 1962 to May 1965.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI began releasing edited versions of the documents after the elder Patriarca died last year.
His son, citing an invasion of privacy, asked Boyle to prevent The Journal and WJAR from reporting on portions of documents that mentioned him. The FBI says Patriarca became the boss of organized crime in New England soon after his father’s death.
The day after Boyle issued the gag order last week, The Journal published a page-one story detailing conversations between the fathe and son based on the tape transcripts. The paper cited the constitutional right of a free press in its defiance of the court order.
Patriarca, now 40, was in his late teens when the tapes were made. Nothing in the Journal story indicated there was evidence on the old tapes that the younger Patriarca was involved in crime at the time. Other stories based on the tapes, however, have said that they do detail his late father’s organized crime activities.
A motion by Patriarca to hold the newspaper and Executive Editor Charles Hauser in contempt is pending while the newspaper makes a written response.
In his ruling against the FBI, Boyle said, ″It’s simply a matter of common sense that that information should not be distributed″ because it was illegally obtained.
″This ought to send a clear message that the FBI is like everyone else; they must abide by the law,″ said John F. Cicilline, Patriarca’s lawyer.
The ruling prevents the FBI from releasing portions of the documents that have not been given to any media outlet as well as more copies of those already distributed to The Journal, WJAR, WPRI-TV of East Providence and The Hartford (Conn.) Courant.
Boyle is expected to set a hearing on whether to issue a permanent injunction against the FBI.
The judge said Patriarca could sue the government for damages for releasing the documents. No such suit has been filed.