Publisher Says Paper Punished For Aggressive Reporting
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) _ A publisher arrested for printing the transcript of a tape-recorded interview said on Friday his newspaper is being punished for working harder than investigators in trying to solve a murder.
″We have really behaved the way a newspaper ought to behave and that’s what we’re being punished for,″ said Dale A. Duncan, president and publisher of The Times Leader newspaper of Wilkes-Barre.
Duncan and three members of his newspaper staff were arrested Thursday and charged under the state’s wiretap law with publishing the contents of a tape- recorded conversation without permission.
Columnist Steve Corbett, in one of many telephone calls with then-murder suspect Glen Wolsieffer, taped a call in July 1989 and the newspaper printed a transcript of the conversation in August 1991 without Wolsieffer’s permission. Wolsieffer was convicted of his wife’s murder last year.
″This paper kept the heat on. Our columnist raised holy hell month after month when nothing was done,″ Duncan said. ″Now, while the dentist is free to be drilling and filling (while appealing his conviction), the prosecutor is charging us with printing the truth.″
Wolsieffer’s wife was strangled in 1986. Clippings from the newspaper’s files show that the dentist often called the paper to discuss the case and often found his words in print.
According to the documents used to arrest the four journalists, Wolsieffer now says he never intended for the paper to tape and transcribe his comments. Material from a pair of Corbett’s columns, but not a verbatim transcript, was used by prosecutors in preparing their case. The transcript was not published until after Wolsieffer’s conviction.
Cohen, who leaves office in three weeks, said he brought the charges because the newspaper violated the publication law, not for any political reasons. He was not in office when Mrs. Wolsieffer was killed and not the target of the newspaper’s columns.
Cohen also said he would have brought specific wiretapping charges against the paper and its employees if the two-year statute of limitations had not run out.
At their arraignment Thursday, Duncan, Corbett, vice president and editor Allison Walzer and managing editor Cliff Schechtman were ordered to appear before District Magistrate Martin Kane on Dec. 23 for a preliminary hearing.
Walzer is accused of specifically publishing material gained through an illegal wiretap. She and the three others each are accused of conspiring to publish it. Third-degree felonies in Pennsylvania are punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Wolsieffer has an unlisted telephone number in Falls Church, Va., where he now lives. He did not return telephone calls placed to his office Friday.
Pennsylvania law prohibits the publication of a taped interview if both parties do not agree to its release, but federal law and Virginia law require only the consent of one party.
The Times Leader, owned by Capital Cities-ABC, has a daily circulation of about 50,400 and a Sunday circulation of about 59,350.