Larry Matthews Faces 18 Months

Article excerpt

Supreme Court denies appeal

First Amendment under fire?

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from a reporter whose case raised questions about whether journalists pursuing stories may engage in otherwise illegal conduct.

The decision not to review Larry Matthews' 1998 conviction of possessing and distributing child pornography came as the high court began a term that will feature at least one significant free-speech case.

In December, the justices will consider whether a Pennsylvania radio station should face civil liability for broadcasting parts of an illegally intercepted telephone conversation. The case could shed light on a question moot since the Pentagon Papers case in 1971. That case dealt with the constitutionality of prior restraint, and did not address whether journalists may be punished for publishing illegally obtained material.

On Oct. 2, the justices without comment declined to hear the appeal lodged by Matthews, 57, of Montgomery County, a Washington suburb.

The 30-year veteran of radio journalism pleaded guilty to two counts after a federal trial judge ruled he could not tell a jury he was trading pictures on the Web as part of research for a planned free- lance article. …