A Prince George's County Circuit Court judge yesterday told the state's attorney's office to give him a list of questions it wants answered by a Washington Post reporter subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury about articles that detailed rapes and sexual assaults at the county detention center.
Attorneys for the newspaper had asked Judge Arthur M. Ahalt to set aside the subpoena, served on reporter Loretta Tofani, contending that the demand for her testimony would have an inhibiting effect on her ability further to report the story and also would violate an 1896 Maryland law that protects reporters from having to disclose their sources of information.
The subpoena ordered Tofani to appear before the grand jury yesterday and to produce all notes, tapes or other records of interviews involving some 30 persons whose names were included in a series of articles about the detention center that ran Sept. 26, 27 and 28. Ahalt's action yesterday effectively postponed enforcement of the subpoena while he hears legal arguments.
In court papers, the newspaper also argued that the state had failed to show that it needed Tofani's testimony and did not have alternative sources for that information..
Ahalt said yesterday that he wanted questions from the county prosecutor before he could decide whether or not Tofani should be required to testify. The written list of questions is scheduled to be filed, under seal, with the judge by Nov. 29. Ahalt scheduled a further hearing for Dec. 6.
The state's attorney's office argued that Tofani should be required to appear before the grand jury, have the questions put to her and then raise any objections, which ultimately would be resolved by the court.
The newspaper's lawyers contended however that since the grand jury proceedings are secret, any appearance by Tofani could lead to speculation that she might have revealed confidential information to the grand jury.