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Reporter Faces Jail for Concealing Source

June 05, 1985|Associated Press

BOSTON — Television news reporter Susan Wornick was sentenced Tuesday to three months in jail for refusing to identify a source who, with his back to the camera, claimed he saw police officers looting a drugstore.

However, the sentence was stayed for at least one night by state Supreme Court Justice Neil Lynch, who said he would decide by this morning whether the case should be heard by the full Supreme Court or whether Wornick should be imprisoned.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge James Donohue told Wornick that she was obstructing justice and "undermining our system of law and order" by refusing to identify the source.

Three-Month Sentence

Wornick, 34, accompanied by her parents and her husband, TV sportscaster Bob Lobel, was sentenced to three months or until she identifies the source.

An appeals court judge upheld the order, and Wornick then appealed to the state Supreme Court for a 24-hour stay of the order.

"This is not a Susan Wornick thing," she told reporters outside the courtroom. "I am doing this for all of us.

"Jail is not the issue," she added. "The issue is credibility and freedom of the press. A reporter is only as good as his or her word. I gave a man my word. I can't go back on it. I could never go out and do my job again."

Source's Charge

WCVB-TV broadcast Wornick's interview with the unidentified source in February. He claimed that he was using an automatic teller machine in the Northgate Shopping Mall in suburban Revere at about 3 a.m. when he saw several Revere policemen drive up to a CVS Pharmacy and loot the store.

About $3,000 worth of cigarettes and other items were reported stolen from the pharmacy.

The man said he would not disclose his name because he feared for his safety and the lives of his wife and 3-year-old daughter.

After the interview aired, investigators subpoenaed the automatic teller records of the three banks in the mall, but found that only a young woman had used a machine in the hours surrounding the alleged looting. She told police she had not noticed anything unusual.

Wornick was then called before the grand jury to identify the source, but refused and was cited for contempt of court.

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