(AP) A judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a former Chiquita banana company lawyer who accused The Cincinnati Enquirer of exposing him to prosecution by failing to protect his identity as a confidential source.
U.S. District Judge Herman Weber ruled Tuesday that no reasonable jury could conclude that the newspaper breached a promise not to identify George Ventura as the source for articles about Chiquita Brands International.
No documents supplied by the Enquirer identified Ventura as a source, the judge noted. He also said the newspaper was not responsible for the identification of Ventura to authorities by a reporter who had already been fired by the paper.
Ventura’s attorney, John Feldmeier, said Thursday he has not decided whether to appeal. Ventura had sued for unspecified damages.
In 1998, the Enquirer published information about alleged improper business practices at Chiquita’s Central American banana plantations. The newspaper later renounced the articles, published a front-page apology, paid $14 million to Chiquita, and fired the lead reporter, Michael Gallagher, because Gallagher had obtained some of his information by accessing Chiquita’s internal voice-mail messages without authorization.
Gallagher pleaded guilty to unlawful interception of communications and unauthorized access to computer systems. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.
Ventura pleaded no contest in 1999 to charges he helped Gallagher and was placed on probation. Ventura alleged that he became the target of a criminal investigation because Enquirer reporters failed to protect his identity. He said the prosecution damaged his career and caused him to lose his job with a Salt Lake City law firm.
Enquirer President and Publisher Harry M. Whipple said the ruling upholds the newspaper’s position that Ventura’s lawsuit was without merit.
Ventura is now in private law practice in Salt Lake City.