Four Newspaper Workers Charged With Illegal Publication
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) _ The publisher, two editors and a columnist for The Times Leader newspaper were charged Thursday with illegally publishing an interview with a dentist convicted of killing his wife.
The 1989 interview was recorded without the dentist’s knowledge, and could not be published legally without his consent, authorities said.
Glen Wolsieffer, then a suspect in the 1986 strangulation death of his wife, Betty, had called columnist Steve Corbett in 1989 to discuss the case. Corbett called Wolsieffer back months later, at his new home in Virginia, and tape-recorded the call.
He wrote two columns after the second interview and the newspaper published a transcript of the call in August after Wolsieffer was convicted of murder.
″It is outrageous that the district attorney’s office would seek to prosecute us by invoking criminal statutes when all the newspaper has done is to publish the truth,″ publisher Dale A. Duncan said in a statement.
Pennsylvania law prohibits the publication of a taped interview if both parties don’t agree to its release, but federal law and Virginia law require the consent of only one party.
Basil Russin, the paper’s attorney, questioned whether federal law should apply since the telephone call crossed state lines, but said a primary defense would be that no one was hurt.
″You just can’t say ’No harm, no foul,‴ District Attorney Jerome Cohen said. ″If I break into your house and don’t steal anything, has a crime occurred? Of course one has.″
Corbett has said it was not necessary to inform Wolsieffer the call was being taped because he knew his remarks could be printed.
In his conversation with Corbett, Wolsieffer speculated that ″druggies″ broke into his house and killed his wife. Prosecutors brought up his remarks during the trial.
Allison Walzer, 38, an editor and vice president from Shavertown, was charged with publishing the interview. Duncan, 37, of Shavertown, was charged with conspiracy, along with Cliff Schechtman, 35, of Dallas, the paper’s managing editor. Corbett, 40, of Wilkes-Barre also was charged with conspiracy.
Each faces up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. They were all released after posting bond. Their next court date is Dec. 23.
Wolsieffer is free on bond and is working as a dentist pending his appeal.
″It is outrageous, that while the convicted murderer in this case is free, 13 months after his conviction, the newspaper is being harassed merely for reporting the facts,″ Duncan said.
The Times Leader has a daily circulation of about 50,400 and a Sunday circulation of about 59,350.