UPDATE: ‘Miami Herald’ Writer Pleads Guilty to Contempt Charge

By: E&P Staff

Miami Herald writer Ana Veciana-Suarez pleaded guilty to a contempt charge Wednesday for not disclosing her father’s past criminal conviction during jury selection for a 2003 trial.

The plea agreement in Miami federal court calls for a $5,000 fine but no jail time, according to a Thursday Herald story. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen T. Brown, who described the offense as ”extremely serious,” must still approve the deal — which was recommended by Veciana-Suarez’s lawyer, William Clay, and the U.S. attorney’s office. A sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 26.

Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler declined to comment for the Herald article, saying “it would be inappropriate … while the case remains under consideration by the judge.”

Meanwhile, a Tribune Media Services executive told E&P Online Thursday that TMS will continue to syndicate Veciana-Suarez’s lifestyle column.

“She made a mistake and she’s owned up to it,” said John Twohey, vice president for editorial and operations. “We don’t feel it impacts on her ability to continue writing a nourishing column. We’re happy to syndicate her.”

Twohey added that the situation has not affected Veciana-Suarez’s TMS client list in any way. Her column is also distributed via Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services news wire.

Though it was not part of the deal, Veciana-Suarez voluntarily filed a personal apology with the court, according to the Herald. ”I can’t begin to express how sorry I am,” she wrote in a one-page statement. ”I don’t want this apology to be misconstrued as an excuse, because there is none,” Veciana-Suarez added, explaining that she withheld the information during jury selection “to protect my father and my family. … No matter the motives, I know my behavior was inexcusable. I did wrong. There is no one else to blame. I take full responsibility for my actions.”

In an Oct. 2003 trial, Veciana-Suarez and seven other jurors awarded an $8.3 million civil judgment to a fired Brinks’ courier. The former employee, Mario Martinez, sued Brinks for ”malicious prosecution” after he was acquitted of criminal charges in state court that alleged he stole a bag containing $350,000 from the armored-car company.

In her apology to the court, Veciana-Suarez said that “in my heart of hearts, I remained a fair and unbiased juror, as did the other seven who served with me to the best of our abilities.”

But in August 2004, said the Herald article, Brown reversed the jury’s verdict — ruling in Brinks’ favor for an unrelated reason: The magistrate judge said Martinez failed to prove the company was responsible for his arrest and prosecution. At the same time, the magistrate said he learned that during pretrial questioning under oath, Veciana-Suarez did not disclose her father’s drug-trafficking conviction or that she had testified as a witness in his case. Brown said she didn’t raise her hand or speak up when the jury pool was asked such questions.

In his ruling and recent court papers, the magistrate noted that the juror’s father, Antonio Veciana, was convicted in 1974 in New York of conspiring to distribute cocaine and was sentenced to seven years, according to the Herald article. He served time in an Atlanta prison.

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