MIAMI, NOV. 20 -- Attorneys for Cable News Network today handed a federal magistrate a briefcase filled with tapes of Manuel Antonio Noriega's telephone calls, saying the recordings would show that his rights were never violated.
The network acted after the Supreme Court refused Sunday to lift the trial judge's order that CNN cease broadcasting the tapes and surrender them to determine whether their use invaded Noriega's attorney-client right to confidentiality.
"We hope and are confident that the court will conclude that the prior restraint is not appropriate under these circumstances," said Steven Korn, the network's chief counsel. "CNN believes . . . that the conversations that were telecast were not attorney-client privileged conversations."
CNN surrendered the tapes to U.S. District Judge William M. Hoeveler in his chambers, but Hoeveler said he did not want to hear any potentially privileged conversations. He ordered them given to U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff, who is to make and study transcripts and report his conclusions to Hoeveler, assigned to hear the drug-smuggling trial of the former Panamanian dictator.
No deadline was set, but Noriega's lead attorney, Frank Rubino, said Hoeveler guaranteed that it would be done "with dispatch." It was not known whether the lawyers would be asked to consult with Turnoff, or whether a hearing would be held when his report was issued, Rubino said.
Korn refused to say how many tapes were handed over or to describe their contents or origins. He said the recordings presented today were copies.
He said CNN believes that it never violated Hoeveler's order because the telecast conversations did not deal with privileged matters, in part because Rubino tacitly agreed to their broadcast when he identified them on the air.
But Rubino, who asked Hoeveler to set a contempt hearing against CNN, strongly disagreed, although he acknowledged he does not know the contents of most of the tapes.
Hoeveler refused to set an immediate contempt hearing and said he must await a decision by Chief U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King on a CNN motion that Hoeveler, as trial judge, be removed from the tapes case.