Editor Stands by Coverage of Man Who Later Killed Himself

By: Joe Strupp

Naples (Fla.) Daily News Editor Phil Lewis stood by his newspaper’s coverage of a former school board member accused of child molestation, who took his own life Tuesday and attacked the paper’s coverage in a note he left behind.

“We would not do anything differently,” Lewis said following the death of Nelson Faerber Jr., 52, whose body was found Tuesday in a local park with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. “I think the paper’s done a good job covering a very serious issue. It is straight news coverage of a criminal case.”

The editor also said the paper had received only one negative reaction today, saying “a reporter got one e-mail from someone accusing us of pulling the trigger, but that it is. I haven’t got a phone call or note one.”

Faerber, a former Collier County School Board member and a prominent defense attorney, was arrested April 29 on charges that for years he had sexual activity with a boy he reportedly met through his son’s Little League team. The newspaper had written nearly a dozen stories on the case since then, with several playing on Page One.

Investigators told the paper that Faerber had left behind several notes prior to his death, including one that attacked the paper, in part, according to Lewis. He said the notes were not released by police, but Faerber’s attorney faxed one of them to the paper. “It is a page and a half long, but only about a quarter of it mentions the paper,” Lewis said. “The rest takes shots at other people in the community.”

The portion that mentions the Daily News includes the following statement: “It is sad that in our society, and especially in a fairly educated community, simply the accusation of sexual misconduct is enough to destroy an individual. Though I was fortunate enough in my career to successfully defend many people who were falsely accused of molestation, I never saw a single one of these individuals fully recover, from a psychological standpoint.”

The note continues, saying, “it is even more disturbing when an irresponsible press causes the families of the accused to suffer so much hurt and humiliation — all in the name of selling newspapers and advertisement.”

Faerber had attempted suicide at least once before, during a trip to Wyoming last month after he was released on a $100,000 bond. Calls to Faerber’s attorneys, Donald Day and Jerry Berry, were not returned Wednesday afternoon.

The Daily News reported Faerber’s death in a Page One story Wednesday morning, which included a full page of related stories and art inside, Lewis said. He described the ongoing coverage of the case prior to Faerber’s death as typical for a major story. “It was not out of the norm, it was certainly front-page news,” he added.

Chris Colby, a Daily News reporter who has been the lead writer covering the Faerber case, declined to comment on the suicide. “I don’t do interviews with other publications,” he said. “I do my job and I don’t have any interest in talking about it.”

The Daily News actually withheld a related story nearly four years ago when a former Naples man had filed a civil suit accusing Faerber of sexually assaulting him in the 1980s when the man was in high school. Lewis said the paper had a story set to go, but chose not to run it after the man withdrew the lawsuit just hours after filing it.

“His attorney actually came to see us after that to thank us for our consideration,” Lewis said.

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