Wichita — A Kansas judge found a subpoenaed newspaper reporter in contempt and fined her $1,000 a day after she failed to show up to testify Wednesday about a jailhouse interview and her confidential sources in a murder investigation.
District Judge Daniel Love ordered Dodge City Daily Globe reporter Claire O’Brien to appear Friday at a rescheduled inquisition — the Kansas equivalent of a grand jury.
A distraught O’Brien told The Associated Press the newspaper’s owners made it “absolutely clear” that the publication would not pay for her legal help unless she testified.
She said the corporate lawyers also scuttled her attempts to get free legal assistance through the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
“I feel profoundly betrayed. I have been prepared to take one of the most difficult steps a citizen can take and I haven’t been given the dignity of representation … to facilitate my choice,” O’Brien said. “I have been told that I have to betray my sources in order to get legal help.”
An executive with GateHouse Media Kansas Holdings, which owns the newspaper, denied O’Brien’s claims late Wednesday, insisting the company did not try to force her to testify in exchange for legal help, and that the company actually encouraged the Reporter’s Committee to help O’Brien.
Earlier, the company issued a statement saying it had vigorously defended O’Brien’s legal interests from the start of inquisition proceedings through the Kansas Supreme Court’s “regrettable decision” not to toss out the subpoenas.
Stephen Wade, group publisher for GateHouse Media Kansas, also said the company had paid for an attorney who worked for O’Brien before the reporter fired the lawyer Wednesday.
“Ms. O’Brien decided to pursue a different course of action this morning, so GateHouse’s involvement in the legal proceedings has — by her choice — ended,” the company said in the statement.