TV Producer Jailed For Witholding Videotapes From Grand Jury
DETROIT (AP) _ A television producer was jailed Wednesday for withholding videotapes of Detroit gang members from a grand jury but said he would continue his fight from behind bars.
″Freedom of the press is of the utmost importance,″ Bradley Stone of WJBK-TV in Southfield said at a news conference at the Wayne County Jail. ″Four months in jail is a small payment.″
Stone could be kept in jail until he submits the tapes to the grand jury or until its term expires on Jan. 7.
″I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not going to give up the tapes under any circumstances,″ Stone said.
Wayne County Circuit Judge William Giovan declined to stay the contempt-of- co urt citation he issued against Stone in March and ordered him jailed for withholding the tapes from the panel investigating the slaying of a state police trooper.
About 40 people marched outside the jail in protest, said Wayne County sheriff’s spokeswoman Nancy Mouradian.
An appeal was filed Wednesday with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and another probably would be filed Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court, said Stone’s attorney, Henry Saad.
″We firmly believe there is a serious constitutional issue at stake here,″ Saad said. ″To throw this reporter in jail and deprive him of his liberty when he had nothing to do with the crime in question is a travesty of justice.″
A U.S. District Court judge had refused to intervene Tuesday.
The state Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 19 that television and radio news reporters are not protected under Michigan’s news shield law and thus cannot protect their tapes or refuse to divulge their sources. The state Supreme Court refused to issue a stay last week.
Stone had done a series of stories on gangs in Detroit and offered to turn over the broadcast segments but not parts that never were broadcast, citing anonymity he had promised his sources.
Grand jury subpoenas served on WJBK demanded the suburban station’s written, filmed or recorded material gathered for the series. Stone said he was being made a scapegoat by prosecutors who can’t put a case together on their own.
Prosecutors have said the tapes may contain information relevant to the case.
″The (U.S.) Supreme Court has said that the press has the same responsibility as any citizen to make their information available to a grand jury,″ said Patrick Foley, assistant prosecutor for Wayne County.
″I think the people of Michigan are the losers,″ said Bill Vance, WJBK news director. ″I think that this can have a detrimental effect on the way reporters go about doing their job, and if that happens, the people who end up losing are the general population.″