A Will County judge found Patch Editor Joseph Hosey in criminal contempt Friday, fined him $1,000 plus $300 a day and told him he could go to jail in three months if he does not reveal the identity of a confidential source.
Patch Media immediately filed an appeal to Judge Gerald Kinney's order.
Kinney ruled that Hosey was in "minor direct criminal contempt" for not giving up the investigative reports that described in detail various aspects of a grisly Joliet double murder in January 2013, as well as the source of those documents.
According to the judge's ruling, Hosey was fined $1,000 plus court costs. He must pay $300 a day in fines from Aug. 29 up to 180 days. After 180 days, he could be jailed.
Hosey's attorney Kenneth L. Schmetterer immediately appealed the judge’s ruling.
“Illinois courts have upheld the shield law to protect reporters precisely from having to divulge confidential sources because of the chilling effect it can have on the important work reporters can do,” Schmetterer said after Friday's hearing. “That’s a principle that’s established and recognized by appellate courts and the Illinois Supreme Court by the statute, and that’s why we’re going to vigorously press forward with our appeal.”
Schmetterer said the appeal could take months.
While in court, Schmetterer cited several previous cases where the term “friendly civil contempt” was used to describe a ruling, and all resulted in fines of varying amounts from $50 to $500. He urged the judge to consider that form of contempt ruling.
Attorney Chuck Bretz, one of the attorneys representing a defendant in the Joliet murder case and the lawyer who asked the judge to force Hosey to reveal his source, said he was “not sure if there is such a thing” as friendly civil contempt. Bretz asked that the judge's ruling include jail time for Patch's editor.
Bretz cited a gag order preventing him from making further comment after the hearing.
Kinney ruled in August that Hosey had to turn over the confidential source of the police reports used in his reporting on the murders, known as the Hickory Street murders.
Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Marie Czech said during the hearing that the grand jury proceedings in the Hickory Street murder cases were not compromised by Hosey’s articles, nor was evidence compromised. Czech also said the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office denies that First Assistant State’s Attorney Ken Grey made statements about a possible leak.
“I want to see if the appellate court will appropriately address this,” Kinney said.
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