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Florida Reporters Cleared of Harassment Charges

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Florida Reporters Cleared of Harassment Charges

Article excerpt

Instead of answering reporters' questions about a $50,000 gift from a felon, a Florida congresswoman filed a harassment complaint. The U.S. attorney's office has thrown it out.

Two ST. PETERSBURG Times reporters have been cleared of charges that they harassed a congresswoman by asking her questions in the corridor of her Capitol office building about her alleged ethics violations.

In May, the two - Times Washington bureau chief David Dahl and staff reporter Bill Adair - asked Rep. Corrine Brown about the $50,000 Lexus LS 400 her daughter accepted as a gift from an associate of West African millionaire Foutanga Sissoko. The Jacksonville, Fla., Democrat ducked the questions - and then filed a complaint with the U.S. Capitol Police, accusing the journalists of conspiring to impede a member of Congress, a crime punishable by up to six years in prison. In addition, she requested and received police protection and contacted House officials about revoking the reporters' press credentials.

The House Ethics Committee is looking into allegations - contained in a series of stories by Adair and Dahl - that Brown accepted the Lexus for her daughter from Sissoko, a convicted felon and friend she tried to free from prison. According to GOP sources cited in the Capitol newspaper Roll Call, the committee is also investigating charges that Brown illegally accepted $10,000 from a secret bank account controlled by Rev. Henry J. Lyons, a National Baptist Convention U.S.A. leader who is charged with racketeering. Brown has denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Brown's daughter, Shantrel, acknowledged that the Lexus was purchased last year by Karim Pouye, Sissoko's chief financial officer, and given just months after Rep. …

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