New York Times reporter Myron A. Farber yesterday offered to turn over to a New Jersey judge his partially completed book manuscript on the so-called "Dr. X" murder case in what he said was an effort to dispel allegations he was profiteering in the case.
"I strongly believe that none of the materials in this manuscript, just as no other information that I have, will establish the innocence or guilt of the defendane," Farber said in a statement released after his offer of the manuscript of New Jersey Superior Court Judge William Arnold.
Arnold put off a decision on whether to accept or reject the manuscript and said he would hold a hearing on the matter tomorrow.
In a sharp attack on Farber last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Lacey accused the Times reporter of holding back vital information about the case in an effort to make from a projected book the alleged murders.
In 1975 Farber wrote a series of articles in The Times that linked a physician referred to as "Dr. X" to five deaths during 1965 and 1966 at Riverdell Hospital in Oradell, N.J. The stories led to charges of murder against Dr. Mario Jascalevich. Two of the murder charges have been dismissed and a trial on the three remaining counts is now in its fifth month.
Farber has been fined $1,000 and is serving an indefinite jail sentence for contempt after his refusal to turn over his notes and files on the case to Arnold. In addition, The Times was fined $100,000 plus a $5,000-a-day charge for withholding additional notes on the case. Arnold sought the papers to decide whether to honor a demand, from Jascalevich's attorney, Raymond Brown, for all the reporter's notes.
During a ball hearing last week in written remarks Monday, Lacey accused Farber of Collaborating with the former state prorsecutor on the case "for pecuniary gain and to advance their careers." He cited Farber's acceptance of a $75,000 advance from Doubleday and Co. as evidence of profiteering.
Farber yesterday denied Lacey's charges. "The net result of these baseless accusations," he said in his statement, "has been to distort and almost totally obscure the fundamental issue in my case - the need for a hearing that we feel will vindicate my belief and that of the New York Times that a reporter's notes and documents are, and must be, protected by the First Amendment and the state shield laws."
Times publisher Arthur Ochs Suzberger, in a separate statement released yesterday, said his paper supported Farber's decision to turn over the manuscript. But he added, "We believe - and still believe - that such an unpublished manuscript is protected by the First Amendment."
In his statement, Farber noted that the manuscript was both incomplete and unedited. Farber said it would be "changed significantly, depending on the evidence produced during the trial and other factors."
He denied Lacey's allegations that he had disclosed any confidential information to his book publisher. "I showed no one - no one - my confidential notes," said Farber. "I make no apologies for my stories. I make no apologies for later entering into a contract to write a book whose only function can be inform the public. I make no apologies for being paid my honest labor."
Farber said the Times first learned of the Riverdell Hospital deaths and wanted to write a book on the subject. He said that at the time, in the summer of 1975, he himself had no intention of doing a book on the case.
After Farber's stories appeared in Times, he said, he was "besieged by calls publishers and literary agents." Farber said his agent, Lucy Kroll, negotiated a book contract with Doubleday but that he abandoned a possible film contract with Warner Brothers because it was contingent on the indictment or conviction of Jascalevich. He said he also balked at turning over his notes to the movie company.
Jascalevich's attorney Brown said Farber's offer of the manuscript to the court failed to comply with the judge's subpoena, which called for all the reporter's notes rather than the uncompleted book. Brown criticized the manuscript offer yesterday as an attempt by Farber to dictate which material he would submit to the court and when it should be submitted.