By: Joe Strupp
A Massachusetts man who admitted he tried to bribe a mayor was photographed by a local newspaper after giving his testimony — and now he wants the newspaper to be fined $65,000.
The Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, Mass., reports that local restaurateur Michael Neve was photographed leaving a Civil Service Commission hearing last month where he testified he offered Methuen Mayor William Manzi a bribe.
?Neve’s lawyer James Krasnoo says the newspaper should also be held in contempt for allegedly violating a commission ruling stating no photographs could be taken of Neve ?during or after? his testimony at ex-police Chief Joseph Solomon’s appeal of his May firing,? the paper reported. ?But The Eagle-Tribune’s lawyer Robert Bertsche maintains the newspaper was exercising its First Amendment right to photograph in public places when it took the picture of Neve outside a state building Oct. 30 and published it the next day.
?Bertsche also said Krasnoo’s filing is merely to harass The Eagle-Tribune for its reporting of Neve’s admitted bribery,? the paper added. ?He is asking the commission to throw out Krasnoo’s petition and that Neve should pay the newspaper’s legal fees.?
Neve agreed to testify on behalf of the city at Solomon’s appeal Oct. 30 but asked Commissioner Paul Stein to bar the Eagle-Tribune from taking photos during and after the hearing, the paper reported, noting, ?The Eagle-Tribune objected, but withdrew its objection when Neve threatened to leave before testifying.?
“It’s a sideshow to a sideshow, really,” said Eagle-Tribune Editor Al White. “It forces you to defend yourself. We’ve had to have our lawyer respond to this ridiculous complaint.”
A reporter was allowed to remain in the room as Neve testified that he offered Manzi a $15,000 bribe for a zoning variance, but the mayor refused it. Neve said he told Solomon about the bribe. Solomon claims he was fired because he took Neve’s story to the FBI. Manzi denies Neve ever tried to bribe him.
The Eagle-Tribune stressed that it ?did not photograph Neve during his testimony or outside the hearing room. But following the freedoms provided for the press in the U.S. Constitution, Bertsche said the newspaper was within its First Amendment rights to take the photo of Neve outside the building.?
Prior to Neve continuing his testimony yesterday, Stein held a special hearing on Krasnoo’s petition and The Eagle-Tribune’s response.
?Stein said he would take the arguments under advisement and issue a finding soon,? the paper reported. ?The commission has no power to hold the newspaper in civil or criminal contempt. If Stein finds there is a case against the newspaper, he would have to send the petition to Superior Court, where the Attorney General would then decide what to do with it.?