HARRISBURG - Lawyers for casino owner Louis DeNaples yesterday subpoenaed 15 journalists - including seven Inquirer reporters and three staffers from the Philadelphia Daily News - to testify at a court hearing to determine whether the secrecy of his grand-jury investigation was violated.
The subpoenas were targeted at reporters from six Pennsylvania news organizations who covered the months-long investigation, which culminated in state police charging DeNaples with four counts of perjury Jan. 30. The hearing on whether secrecy requirements were violated was ordered last month by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Sprague & Sprague, a Philadelphia firm that is part of DeNaples' legal team, also served reporters from the Associated Press, the Allentown Morning Call and the Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice, and the owner-operator of Roxbury News, an independent broadcasting company in Harrisburg.
The subpoenas ordered the journalists to testify June 30 before Dauphin County Court Judge Todd A. Hoover "regarding allegations of violations of the secrecy provisions" governing the grand jury.
The reporters were told to bring any notes, e-mails or other material reflecting "indirect or direct communications" with anyone sworn to secrecy about the grand jury's proceedings.
Grand juries are supposed to operate in secret, and officers of the court, from stenographers to deputies, from prosecutors to police, are restricted from discussing what happens behind closed doors. However, witnesses and their attorneys are not barred from discussing their testimony.
Among the subpoenaed reporters were George Anastasia, Mario F. Cattabiani, Mark Fazlollah, Craig R. McCoy, Jeff Shields, John Shiffman and John Sullivan from The Inquirer, and columnist John Baer and reporters Chris Brennan and Kitty Caparella from the Daily News.
Reporters in Pennsylvania have traditionally been allowed to guard the identities of confidential sources under the state's "shield law," said Teri Henning, attorney for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.
DeNaples owns the Mount Airy Resort Casino in the Poconos in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He is accused of lying to investigators for the state Gaming Control Board about his relationships with four men - two reputed mobsters and two men at the center of a political-corruption scandal in Philadelphia - to win a $50 million slot-machine gambling license.
A wealthy Scranton-area political donor whose business interests also include banking and landfills, DeNaples has been suspended from exercising any control over the casino pending the outcome of the criminal case. The $412 million casino, which opened in the fall, is being run by a state-appointed trustee.
Ted Chylack, a lawyer at Sprague & Sprague, said that "the subpoenas speak for themselves," and that the firm would have no further comment.