Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Leaker to plead guilty
In 2002 the mayor of Providence, RI, and his assistant were convicted on federal corruption charges. (Mayor Cianci was the first Republican mayor of Providence since the great depression.) A portion of the evidence was a videotape that showed his aide Frank Corrente taking a bribe.
The federal judge issued a gag order on everyone involved in the case, and before you could say "leaker" the videotape was shown on NBC-affiliate WJAR-TV by reporter Jim Taricani.
An investigation was launched. Taricani was subpoenaed and refused to reveal his source. In March the judge held Taricani in civil contempt and imposed a $1000-per-day fine. As in the cases of Miller and Cooper in the Plame affair, the judge stayed the fine pending appeal. Taricani lost his appeal and NBC began paying his fines, which mounted to $85,000.
When Taricani still wouldn't talk, the judge held him in criminal contempt in November. This would have normally merited a prison term, but Taricani had received a heart transplant. Since execution-by-imprisonment would have been a bit extreme, the judge sentenced him in December to six months of house arrest instead.
The house arrest was severe. Tracy Breton of the Providence Journal reported that—
While in home confinement, Taricani, a heart transplant recipient with a pacemaker, has not been allowed to leave his house for any reason except to visit doctors. He can't give interviews, use the Internet or even go to the curb to fetch his mail. His visiting hours have been from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m.
His wife said yesterday that Taricani has been out of their house only three times since Dec. 9.
Taricani served four months and was released on April 9.
Meanwhile the special investigation into the leak continued and defense attorney Joseph Bevilacqua Jr., who was representing neither the mayor nor his aide but a third defendant, confessed to the leak under oath in November of last year.
The lawyer was charged this past Monday. According to the AP,
Joseph Bevilacqua Jr., 55, agreed to plead guilty to contempt and perjury for violating a court order not to release the footage, then lying about it under oath, U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente said.
No date has been set for Bevilacqua to enter the plea. The perjury charge carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The contempt charge carries no specific maximum, Corrente said. Prosecutors would not say what punishment they will seek.
David Curtin, chief counsel at the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board, said he will recommend that Bevilacqua be disbarred.
Bevilacqua has said he never asked Taricani to keep his name secret, which Taricani disputes.
Bevilacqua represented the city tax assessor in the corruption investigation. His late father was a Rhode Island Supreme Court chief justice who quit in 1987 amid accusations he associated with mobsters.
One remarkable aspect of this case is that Bevilacqua made his confession before Taricani began serving his term, and the judge imposed the sentence on the reporter despite that. All of which raises this question: If the leaker in the Valerie Plame affair does come forward as I discussed in a previous post, and Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper continue to refuse to talk, will we have the spectacle of reporters from the NY Times and Time going to jail anyway? It appears it could happpen.
John Dean: Jail likely for Judith Miller unless she talks (5/2/05)