By: Robert Brown
A northwest Indiana newspaper says
the arrest of a reporter on two old misdemeanor warrants was the county sheriff’s deliberate retaliation for stories about allegations of corruption and misuse of federal drug-fighting funds.
Lake County Sheriff’s officers arrested police reporter Daniel Yovich April 24 at the Times offices in Munster. One warrant involved an August l993 probation revocation, and the other was issued in April l994 on a drunken driving charge. Yovich, 36, who alleges he was strip-searched by sheriff’s officers in February (E&P, March 14, pp. 15-16), was released on a $2,000 bond after nearly five hours in jail.
The newspaper, located just outside Chicago, questioned how the warrants were discovered among thousands of unserved warrants, when they didn’t come up when Yovich was stopped twice recently for traffic violations.
“I think there was a purposeful search to find some manner in which to embarrass Dan Yovich and the Times,” said executive editor William Nangle.
Sheriff John Buncich was on vacation and a spokesman didn’t return phone calls. John Bushemi, attorney for the sheriff, would only say, “The defendant was arrested on outstanding court bench warrants for violations of law.”
But Nangle raised doubt about one warrant. He said Yovich produced documents showing he completed a required program for his drunken driving case. Shortly afterward, Yovich went to Bosnia for more than two years as a correspondent for United Press International. “If there were any questions unresolved, he was unaware of it,” Nangle said.
Nangle said the company has hired an attorney to aid Yovich. The newspaper is insisting that he resolve the matter.
Adding to the dispute are radio and print ads Buncich took out the same day as the arrest. The ads state that negative and inaccurate stories by Yovich and the Times endanger federal funding of the special anti-drug unit.
“I believe the sheriff is seeking to deflect attention from the real issues that need to be addressed,” Nangle said. He promised the Times will continue to follow the story, to which he has assigned two additional reporters.
The Lake County Drug Task Force ceased operations in early February shortly after one of its undercover agents was arrested by the FBI on extortion charges. The unit recently was put under the supervision of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Yovich had gone to interview Buncich Feb. 12 about alleged wrongdoing by task force members when he allegedly was strip-searched. Buncich contends some officers played a joke on Yovich but has denied that any search was conducted.
Buncich threatened to file a libel suit against the paper for publishing the allegations. Bushemi would not comment, and Nangle said he is unaware of any suit being filed.
?(Daniel Yovich) [Caption]
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher May 9, 1998) [Caption]