Journalist convicted of criminal contempt

EDITOR’S NOTE: Corrected version, 11/19/04, below

New York, November 18, 2004—A federal court today convicted Jim Taricani, a reporter at WJAR-TV, an NBC Universal–owned station in Providence, Rhode Island, of criminal contempt for refusing to reveal a confidential source.

Sentencing is set for December 9, and Taricani faces up to six months behind bars, according to the Web site of WJAR-TV.

“This conviction makes it more likely that Taricani will be sentenced to jail, an action that would set a terrible example for the world,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.

In March, U.S. District Court Judge Ernest C. Torres held Taricani in contempt after he refused to reveal who leaked to him an FBI surveillance tape during an investigation into corruption involving Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr, then mayor of Providence. WJAR-TV broadcast the tape during the corruption trial, and two defendants, ex-Mayor Cianci and one of his former aides, Frank E. Corrente, were later convicted of taking bribes.

Judge Torres imposed a $1,000-a-day fine against Taricani, although the fines were stayed pending an appeal, which the journalist lost. Since August 12, he has been paying the fine, which now totals $85,000. NBC Universal has reimbursed the payments, according to a statement from the company.

Taricani, 55, is the recipient of a heart transplant. Judge Torres has previously said in court that he has been reluctant to jail the journalist because of his heart condition.