Maryland's highest court today upheld a ruling requiring Washington Post reporter Loretta Tofani to testify in an investigation stemming from her series on rapes and sexual assaults in the Prince George's County jail.
The state Court of Appeals issued the ruling, with opinions to come later. Two members of the seven-judge panel dissented.
Tofani's series, which recently won a Pulitzer Prize, chronicled rapes and sexual assaults of male inmates by other male prisoners. Prince George's County State's Attorney Arthur Marshall first sought Tofani's testimony for a grand jury investigation into the alleged rapes and assaults. Tofani declined to testify and moved to quash the subpoena. Prince George's County Circuit Judge Arthur Ahalt ruled in December that Tofani was required to testify.
Tofani then appealed Ahalt's ruling, and the grand jury later indicted 12 men in connection with the assaults. Marshall said today he is seeking three more indictments that may not be obtainable without Tofani's testimony.
Before the Court of Appeals, Tofani's attorney, Kevin Baine, argued that she was protected from testifying by the Maryland "shield law," under which reporters cannot be compelled to reveal their news sources in a legal proceeding, and by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press.
Marshall argued that the shield law does not apply because Tofani had already used the names of her sources in the stories. Thus, he maintained, she would not be revealing sources, only corroborating the facts as presented in the newspaper.
Tofani is in Japan on a year's Fulbright Scholarship. Baine said she was not immediately available for comment, but added there was "an understanding among parties that she would return to the country if necessary to answer the subpoena."
Marshall indicated that if he received an assurance of Tofani's willingness to testify, it might be sufficient to get the indictments. "We just need to know that she will, if needed, affirm her statements in court," he said.