By: Joe Nicholson
Won’t name Olympic bombing story sources
REPORTERS AND EDITORS at the Atlanta Journal and Constitution have defied a judge’s repeated order to reveal the anonymous sources who identified Richard Jewell as a suspect in the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing.
Although the journalists could be fined or jailed for disobeying the order, they announced on May 12 that they cannot name names because doing so would damage the public’s right to be informed and harm their sources in law enforcement.
“On risk of sanctions, the Journal-Constitution will not reveal the identities of its confidential sources,” wrote newspaper lawyer Peter Canfield to Judge John Mather of Fulton County State Court. Mather has exercised his right under Georgia law to refuse to allow the newspaper to appeal his order on revealing sources.
Legal experts said the judge was likely to skip fines and imprisonment and sanction the newspaper by limiting the evidence it can present in defending itself against Jewell’s libel suit.
The Journal and Constitution broke the story that Jewell was a suspect; he sued after he was cleared of involvement in the bombing, which killed a woman and injured more than 100 others.
Asked if the Journal and Constitution was in a legal bind, newspaper attorney Canfield declined comment.
Jewell’s attorney, Lin Wood, told E&P the Journal and Constitution’s identity of Jewell as a suspect was “substantially true,” adding Jewell’s “legal basis to sue” was based on a column, other stories and headlines.
Wood wants the identity of the anonymous sources for his case and vowed to demand sanctions against defiant journalists. He claimed the sources had only secondhand knowledge of the FBI’s investigation.
“We believe almost all the information was from one or more police officers with the Atlanta police, who were not a part of the active investigation,” said Wood.
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