Trials & Litigation

Judge holds reporter in contempt, imposes $300-a-day fine during 180-day compliance period

An Illinois judge on Friday held a suburban Chicago reporter in contempt for refusing to comply with a court order to disclose how he got hold of confidential police reports about a double murder in Joliet in January.

Will County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Kinney also imposed a $1,000 fine, plus court costs, on reporter Joseph Hosey and gave him 180 days to comply, the Southtown Star reports. Meanwhile, Hosey faces an additional $300-per-day fine for every day he does not reveal his source.

His lawyer, Kenneth Schmetterer, says he will appeal Kinney’s ruling that Hosey is not protected by a reporter’s privilege.

The state’s journalism shield law “is there for a reason,” he told the newspaper. “The Illinois courts have held the shield law exists to protect reporters from having to divulge confidential sources because it could have a chilling effect on the very important work journalists do.”

The Society for Professional Journalists condemned the judge’s actions.

“This is an absolute outrage and an affront to a free press and everything this nation holds dear,” said SPJ President David Cuillier. “Why in the world would a judge go after a journalist just doing his job, when the reporter’s work seems to have had no negative influence on proceedings? It appears to me that this judge has lost sight of the big picture.”

An earlier Joliet, IL Patch article provides further details.

Edited on Sept. 23 to add comment from SPJ.

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