Norfolk newspaper reporter David Chandler again refused to disclose the names of confidential sources to a Virginia judge today and thus remained under the threat of an indefinite jail sentence.
Chandler's lawyers immediately sought to appeal Chandler's contempt citation to the Virginia Supreme Court, but a hearing on the case, first set for today, was delayed until Wednesday. The Norfolk Ledger-Star reporter, winner of a 1962 Pulitzer Prize for stories on organized crime in Florida, is scheduled to the jailed Tuesday unless he talks.
His lawyers said today they have not determined what effect the latest delay will have on the jailing order.In 1961 Chandler was jailed in Panama City, Fla., when he refused to disclose confidential sources to a prosecutor there.
Chandier twiece refused last week to tell a special state grand jury the names of sources he quoted in a story alleging that state purchasing officials have accepted expensive gifts in exchange for favors to businesses.
Richmone Circuit Court Judge James B. Wilkinson held Chandler in contempt for withholding the names, fined him $1,000 and ordered him held in jail until he agrees to disclose his sources.
In the unusual courtroom session today, wilkinson invited Chandler to join him alone in his chambers "to give you an opportunity to purge yourself."
Wilkinson said that if the reporter told him the name of a businessman and other sources quoted anonymously in the Feb. 26 story, he would then determine whether they are material to the grand jury's investigation. Chandler at first declined the offer.
"This would seem to put us in the position that you don't trust the court," Wilkinson said.
After some exchanges between wilkinson and Chandler's lawyer, Ross C. Reeves, the reporter agreed to meet with the judge in his chambers. He said he would describe his investigation of the purchasing allegations but would not name his confidential sources.
After 45 minutes the judge and reporter returned to the courtroom and Wilkinson announced that the contempt citation would remain in effect.
Wilkinson's effort to establish the significance of the sources to the investigation apparently was intended to comply with a Virginia Supreme Court opinion. In a 1974 case, the state court excused a reporter from disclosing an unnamed source in a story about a murder investigation. It ruled the name was not important enough to override the First Amendment protection of freedom of the press.
Reeves has argued in a memorandum to the state Supreme Court that its past rulings and those of the U.S. Supreme Court require officials to exhaust every other investigative means before callign on a reporter to testify Chandler has contended that the sources are "obvious" and readily accessible to state police.
Wilkinson suggested several times today that Chandler's sources might not exist. "It would be a shame to send him to jail if there are no sources," the judge said. Chandler and his lawyer assured him that the sources are real.