A defense lawyer Friday acknowledged giving an FBI memo to a newspaper reporter writing about a corruption probe, and a federal judge urged a prosecutor to investigate how two other sealed documents were leaked.
The reporter's article was one of two the Cleveland Plain Dealer had delayed publishing out of concern there would be an investigation into who disclosed the documents. The story, about a federal probe of former Cleveland mayor Michael R. White, was published Thursday after a weekly newspaper wrote about the case.
The same day, U.S. Attorney Gregory A. White asked the judge to find out who leaked the memo and two affidavits filed by FBI agents.
Lawyer Jerome Emoff told U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin that he gave one of the documents to a Plain Dealer reporter. The memo described an FBI interview with Ricardo Teamor, a confidant of the ex-mayor who pleaded guilty in April to bribery.
Gwin told Emoff that he could be found in contempt of court. Emoff declined to comment.
Plain Dealer editor Doug Clifton said Friday that Emoff gave documents to the newspaper, believing they were not sealed, and did not ask for a promise of confidentiality. "He said initially we weren't to use his name, but that should identification of his name become an issue, we could," Clifton said.
He said the newspaper would resist any order or request to discuss how an FBI affidavit was obtained. "We do not reveal a source once we've given the promise not to reveal the identity of a source," he said. "If we have to go to jail, I guess we go to jail."
The Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, decided to publish after the weekly Scene wrote about the investigation and identified the story as one that was being withheld, Clifton said in Friday's edition.
"Once another medium identified us as a holder of the documents in question, holding back the story became moot," he said.
Pete Kotz, editor of Scene, said Thursday he would protect the identity of the person who gave him the documents.
The newspapers reported that the FBI investigated what it believed was widespread corruption at City Hall in which businesses paid bribes to White for government contracts. The former mayor, who has not been charged with any crime, did not return phone, fax and e-mail messages. He left office in 2002.
Emoff represents Cleveland City Council member Joe Jones, one of three defendants in a federal bribery case involving business consultant Nate Gray, also a friend of the former mayor. Gray was acquitted this month by a federal jury of four counts of wire fraud. He is to be retried on 40 counts that the jury failed to reach a verdict on, including conspiracy and bribery.