SPJ supports First Amendment rights of New Orleans reporter
The Society of Professional Journalists today offered its support and assistance to WDSU-TV reporter Richard Angelico, who was found guilty in a New Orleans court Thursday of contempt. He was charged with revealing the names of some of the grand jury witnesses who testified more than 20 years ago during an investigation into President Kennedy's assassination.
Angelico was fined $100 and received a three-month suspended sentence. He will be appealing the conviction. Angelico was convicted under a criminal statute protecting the secrecy of grand jury records. His lawyer argued that the statute only applied to court officials and not to court reporters. SPJ has offered to pay Angelico's fine and will be monitoring his appeal carefully.
Angelico received the documents in question from Gary Raymond, a former DA office staffer. Raymond said District Attorney Harry Connick had ordered the documents destroyed in 1974 to create office space, but Raymond felt they had historical value and took them home. He contacted Angelico after Connick told the federal Assassinations Records Review Board on June 28 that the records had disappeared during the past administration.
"This case is just as murky as the Louisiana bayou," said G. Kelly Hawes, SPJ president. "It sounds like Connick is a good-ol-boy politican out for revenge and that's just not acceptable for a public official. Richard Angelico acted as any responsible reporter should. He was given information concerning a deception. He took that information and reported it to the public. Those actions should be protected under our First Amendment, and we will do what we can to assure that they are."