Judge orders reporter to reveal details in James Brown case
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) — A journalist covering the fight over soul singer James Brown’s estate was ordered Friday to tell a court how she obtained a diary from Brown’s widow.
A judge issued a restraining order telling journalist Sue Summer to not publish anything from the diary, which she said was sent to her anonymously. But the order came several hours after Summer had already posted Tomi Ray Hynie’s writings on her Facebook page. Summer has now been ordered to bring her notes and phone records to a hearing Monday afternoon in Aiken County.
“It’s an idiotic request,” said Summer’s lawyer Thomas Pope. “The reporter shield law makes that absolutely sacrosanct.”
Pope said the diary was in a public court filing for months before a judge put a gag order on it several years ago.
In requesting that Summer be banned from publishing the diary, Hynie’s lawyer Robert Rosen reminded the other lawyers about the gag order and said Summer likely can’t prove they are Hynie’s writings.
In a letter to Summer’s lawyer, Rosen said the diary contains the writings of someone in distress and to publish them would be “unconscionable, morally wrong and may be actionable.”
The wrangling over Hynie’s diary represents just a small part of a chaotic eight-year fight over Brown’s estate since The Godfather of Soul died on Christmas Day in 2006.
Hynie, a former backup singer for Brown, had a big win in court last week when a judge ruled she was legally married to the soul singer. That could clear the way for her to share in a large part of Brown’s estate and royalties from his music. But the ruling will likely be appealed as the distribution of Brown’s estate remains unresolved after the South Carolina Supreme Court said a deal brokered by then South Carolina Attorney Genera Henry McMaster failed to follow the singer’s apparent wishes in his disputed will.
Brown’s children argued Hynie was already wed to another man when she married Brown in 2001, voiding the union. But Circuit Judge Doyet Early ruled Hynie’s husband from that first marriage had been married to someone else, making Hynie’s first marriage void. The judge also pointed out while Brown filed annulment papers against Hynie, he stopped pushing to have the marriage voided well before he died. The couple had one child.
The writings from the diary that Summer posted include handwritten notes and a transcript of what lawyers have said were more writings found in the home that Hynie and Brown shared when he died. She was locked out of the home for a time after Brown’s death because of questions over the marriage, and friends of Brown collected the pages. The writings were sent to Summer in an envelope with an Augusta, Georgia, postmark and no return address, Summer’s lawyers said.
In the writings that Summer posted, Hynie appears worried about her relationship with Brown and how he refused to go to a justice of the peace and have their vows renewed. They include other details such as Hynie worrying about Brown’s health and how much he loved her and how she had to be careful to not slip back into drug addiction.
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