NMU WASHINGTON, D.C. Confidentiality/Privilege

Washington Post reporter testifies before federal grand jury

Reporter David Fahrenthold lost his bid to quash a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury after writing an article quoting a murder suspect.

Sep. 17, 2003 — Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold testified before a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., yesterday regarding a phone call he received last year from a man alleging to be the suspect in a local murder.

Fahrenthold was subpoenaed in response to a Sept. 5, 2002, Post article in which the man claimed to be Anthony Q. Kelly, who called the paper to declare his innocence. Kelly, a District of Columbia parolee, was wanted for the Aug. 2002 murder of a tourist from Seattle.

“I don’t got the heart to kill nobody. It’s not in me,” the caller was quoted as saying.

According to the Post, attorneys for the newspaper initially tried to get the subpoena dismissed. Their motion was denied in the D.C. District Court, although Steve Coll, the Post’s managing editor, expressed relief that federal prosecutors agreed not to seek any of Fahrenthold’s confidential sources.

“David would not have testified,” said Coll, in an article in today’s newspaper. “He made that clear. And we would have supported that.”

Department of Justice employees, including federal prosecutors, must follow guidelines that require them to seek the permission of the Attorney General before subpoenaing a journalist. They must also exhaust alternate sources of information before turning to members of the press. In Nov. 2002, the Justice Department reported authorizing 88 subpoenas to the news media between 1991 and 2001.

It is not known whether prosecutors complied with the guidelines because they cannot comment on grand jury matters.

Following Fahrenthold’s testimony yesterday, the grand jury indicted Kelly on charges of murder, armed robbery and weapons possession. Katie Lynn Hill, 36, was killed on Aug. 9, 2002, while in Washington, D.C., for a convention.


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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