A Dauphin County judge has ruled that reporters for six news organizations do not have to turn over documents related to what they wrote during the grand jury investigation of casino owner Louis A. DeNaples.
Lawyers for DeNaples had sought the documentary evidence and the testimony of 15 journalists about their sources. Attorneys for the journalists contend that the state shield law protects reporters from being forced to disclose their sources.
DeNaples, a Scranton businessman who owns the Mount Airy Casino Resort, was charged with perjury in late January over alleged lies to state gaming regulators about alleged ties to crime figures. He has pleaded not guilty.
Dauphin County Court Judge Todd A. Hoover, who supervised the grand jury inquiry, has not decided whether the reporters must testify. He was ordered by the state Supreme Court to conduct a hearing and decide whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to determine whether grand jury secrecy rules were violated. That hearing is scheduled for Monday.
The high court had been asked to order the inquiry by attorneys for DeNaples. "When you get past the headlines and the leaks ... you discover that there simply is no basis for a perjury case against him," DeNaples' lead attorney, Richard A. Sprague, said in a statement in February.
Sprague and others on the DeNaples defense team accused prosecutors of breaking grand jury secrecy rules by leaking information to the news media. Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo has said that his office has never disclosed any grand jury information.
Hoover issued an order closing Monday's hearing to the public, but Theodore J. Chylack, an attorney in Sprague's law firm, said he and other members of the DeNaples legal team have asked the judge to hold an open hearing.
"It should be open," he said yesterday.
The journalists subpoenaed include 10 reporters from The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, as well as reporters for 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 Pennsylvania Shield Law states that no reporter "shall be required to disclose the source of any information procured or obtained by such person, in any legal proceeding, trial or investigation before any government unit."