The JonBenet Ramsey murder case yesterday produced an indictment--of a journalist.
Craig Allen Lewis, an editor with the Globe supermarket tabloid, was charged with bribery and criminal extortion for attempting to buy an alleged ransom note turned over by Ramsey's mother.
Dave Thomas, district attorney of Jefferson County, Colo., said Lewis's conduct "clearly crosses the line of legitimate news-gathering activity and violates Colorado law."
Lewis's attorney, Jeffrey Pagliuca, said his client "did nothing wrong" and called the charges "a significant attack on the First Amendment. All Mr. Lewis did was try to get news information and he's being prosecuted because of that. People offer things all the time to get information."
In April 1997, three months after the child beauty queen was killed, Lewis visited Donald Vacca, a former Denver police officer and document specialist who had been given the ransom note by police, according to the indictment. Lewis said he knew that Vacca had the ransom note and wanted to buy it, handing him a large manila envelope containing $30,000 in cash, the indictment says. It says the money was provided at the direction of the Globe's vice president, Michael Kahane.
Vacca refused the offer and escorted Lewis and an associate from his office. Three days later, the indictment says, Lewis left Vacca an answering-machine message offering to pay an even greater sum, and renewed the offer at Vacca's home four days after that.
The indictment, which was delayed by lawsuits filed by the Globe and Lewis, also charges that Lewis engaged in extortion in an effort to force former Boulder detective Steve Thomas into granting an interview. Lewis threatened to publish photographs of Thomas's deceased mother as part of a story saying that she committed suicide, the indictment says.