Suburban reporter ordered to give up notes, name sources in murder case

A reporter for local news website has been ordered to give up his notes and name the sources of police investigation reports he used for a series of stories about two grisly Joliet slayings.

Journalist shield laws do not allow patch.com reporter Joe Hosey to protect the source who gave him police reports about the January deaths of Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins in a home on Joliet’s north side, Judge Gerald Kinney said in a ruling issued Friday.

Hosey will have 21 days to turn over all the documents he received and to reveal their source. Hosey will appeal the ruling, said his attorney, Kenneth Schmetterer .

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling,” Schmetterer said. “Shield laws should apply in this case.”

The judge’s order stems from a motion by attorneys for the four people charged in the slayings for a gag order in the case that was filed after Hosey’s articles were published on patch.com.

Adam Landerman, 19; Alisa Massaro, 18; Bethany McKee, 18; and Joshua Miner, 24, each are charged with first-degree murder.

Hosey, a veteran reporter who has covered the southwest suburbs for years and wrote a book about convicted killer Drew Peterson, still is covering the case for patch.com. The website, owned by AOL, maintains localized news sites for hundreds of communities.

Hosey’s stories included gruesome details attributed to police reports the website “obtained,” including allegations that Miner and Massaro had sex on top of the bodies and that Miner wanted to keep the victims’ teeth as a trophy.

Before issuing his ruling, Kinney held several hearings on the source of Hosey’s information, and more than 500 people, including numerous police officers as well as attorneys involved in the case and their employees, all signed affidavits stating they did not give Hosey the reports.

In his ruling, Kinney notes that if an attorney provided the information to Hosey, that attorney could have violated state Supreme Court rules governing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, an offense that might lead to a contempt of court ruling. Nonattorneys might have committed perjury if they lied in their sworn affidavit.

Even taking the step of ordering the affidavits is a rare one, said Esther Seitz, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association. Shield laws are intended to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, and state law requires a court to find there is no way to get the information needed to protect the public interest other than to force the reporter to reveal his or her source, Seitz said.

Kinney mentions concern over protecting the defendants’ right to a fair trial, but if he is worried the chilling details would bias the jury pool, there are remedies other than lifting Hosey’s ability to protect his source, Seitz said.

“I don’t see where making Mr. Hosey talk is going to undo any of the damage (to the defendants’ case). If you’re worried about the jury pool, the cat is already out of the bag,” Seitz said.

“If you want to untaint the jury pool, you can move the venue to another jurisdiction.”

By Andy Grimm

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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