Utah Reporter Charged For Not Calling 911

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(AP) A reporter who wrote a story about a diesel spill in his newspaper’s building has been charged with failing to notify the fire department about the accident.

Deseret News reporter Jerry Spangler could get up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine under the charge filed earlier this month in connection with the Jan. 3 spill in the basement of the Deseret News tower.

“We intend to argue Mr. Spangler is not the person who has to report these things,” his attorney Ed Brass said Friday. “It’s not something I’ve ever seen prosecuted in 25 years” of practice.

Spangler wrote a story critical of his newspaper and its building managers after diesel fumes circulated throughout the nine-story tower’s ventilation system. The spill was caused by a supplier who mistakenly pumped 400 gallons of diesel fuel into a tank that already was full. The delivery was meant for a building next door.

Spangler interviewed a state environmental quality official, who told Spangler to report the spill by calling 911. Spangler said he told his supervisors of the spill, wrote his story, and went home.

The city’s chief prosecutor, Simarjit Gill, said that charging a reporter is “the last thing I want to do” but that Spangler ignored the state official’s warning. That official did not report the spill, either.

No charges have been filed against the newspaper or its building managers, the diesel fuel supplier, or the firm called to mop it up.

Gill has said others could be charged for failing to report the spill.

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