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Washington Post Reporter Faces Possible Contempt of Court

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Washington Post Reporter Faces Possible Contempt of Court

Article excerpt

Washington Post reporter faces possible contempt of court

A Washington, D.C., appeals court is slated to hear arguments May 10 over whether a Washington Post reporter should be held in contempt of court and possibly sent to jail for refusing to reveal her source of a confidential city police handbook about a less-than-successful drug raid in 1986.

Post reporter Linda Wheeler was subpoenaed by attorneys for six D.C. policemen who are suing the city and Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. The plaintiffs charge that they were improperly blamed for the failure of the drug bust because they are white.

One of the reasons for the poor showing of Operation Caribbean Cruise was cited as pre-raid leaks to the media and among lower-rank officers, whose schedules were changed to accommodate the raid.

Wheeler apparently obtained a copy of the operation handbook prior to the raid, but did not publish any articles until it was over.

Wheeler has declined to identify who gave her the handbook, but her husband, U.S. Park Police Capt. Hugh Irwin, whom she was dating at the time of the operation, and one of his colleagues have testified that she told them Fulwood gave her the handbook.

Wheeler has said she does not recall the conversation.

When called to the stand, Wheeler declined to answer questions about her reporting on the issue, and she was cited for contempt of court by D.C. Superior Court Judge Richard A. Levie.

Levie ruled that Wheeler gave up her First Amendment right to protect her source when she told Irwin and his colleague about having received the document from Fulwood. …

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