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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Judge Kinney was wrong; support Joe Hosey

By Ted Slowik

Sometimes judges get it wrong. Like the one in Montana who gave a one-month prison sentence to a teacher convicted of raping one of his 14-year-old students, who tragically committed suicide. The judge was wrong to impose such a lenient sentence. Everyone knows that.

Here in Will County, a judge has erred. Judge Gerald Kinney has ordered Patch reporter Joe Hosey to divulge how he obtained police reports about the grisly killing of two men in a Hickory Street home in Joliet on Jan. 10.

Kinney on Sept. 20 ordered Hosey to divulge his source, and the judge fined the reporter $1,000 outright plus $300 a day. Hosey has refused to disclose his source or sources, and the fines are on hold while the ruling is appealed. Joe could face jail time if the ruling is upheld.

Judge Kinney was wrong. Everyone should see that.

No one disputes Hosey's investigative accounts of what the alleged killers said and did in relation to the January murders on Hickory Street. This isn't about the facts of the case, or whether the defendants will receive a fair trial. This is about finding the source of the leak, and punishing that person, as the Chicago Tribune said Friday in an editorial criticizing Kinney's decision and calling for the appellate court to overturn the ruling.

The ruling will be overturned because it's wrong. Illinois has a shield law that protects journalists like Joe Hosey. The circumstances of this case fall well within the protections granted by that law. History will show Hosey was right and Kinney was wrong.

This is a First Amendment case with national implications. American journalists should not have to face the threat of jail simply for doing their jobs well. In this day and age of government intrusion into privacy, if authorities cannot determine the source of the leak, Hosey shouldn't be forced to tell.

Besides, Hosey seems like the kind of reporter who would sooner go to jail than divulge a confidential source. (The source, by the way, is irrelevant. No one should care who it is.) Kinney's contempt-of-court ruling will never achieve its intention of revealing the source of the leak. The ruling, however, forces Hosey's employer to bear the expense of defending its reporter.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, more than 500 people have signed affidavits stating they did not provide the information to Hosey. If Kinney ever finds out who leaked the police reports, that individual or individuals could face disciplinary action for violating professional attorney and prosecutorial procedures, or even criminal perjury for lying under oath.

In addition to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, numerous journalistic organizations are supporting Joe Hosey. Among them, the National Press Club, The Illinois News Broadcasters Association, Radio Television and Digital News Association.

What can you do to help? Show your support for Joe Hosey. Join the Facebook group, Free Joe Hosey. Post, share and like comments and links on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels to show your support.

It's the right thing to do.