Going To Jail For Doing Your Job Is Not The American Way Of Justice

By Gregory Moore
Updated: September 22, 2006

SAN ANTONIO – If Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada go to jail for doing their job, this will be another black eye in American history and by all accounts, it may be the case. As many already know, Williams and Fairnaru-Wada have done a series of investigative pieces on the BALCO case and thanks to much of their hard work, columnists like myself have been able to expound, enlighten, infuriate and even chastise numerous subjects on this matter.

But what they are known for right now is the fact that their work has gotten rave reviews from common people who are not even sports fans to the President of the United States for the steroids issue. Congress moved on hearings because of their work. And that’s the irony because now the very government that applauded them in 2003 is now trying to put them in jail three years later.

“It’s a tragedy that the government seeks to put reporters in jail for doing their job,” said San Francisco Chronicle executive vice president and editor Phil Bronstein after the hearing.

For many who are not sports fans or who are not really up to speed on this case, this is a perfect history lesson on the U.S. Constitution and legal rights between states and the federal government. At the crux of this case is what many call in the field of journalism a ‘shield’ law.

Of the 50 states in the union, 31 of them actually have a shield law in place that protects journalists against federal prosecution when confidential sources are used in a story that is for the public good. California has one but it only has ‘state’ power; not federal. What many want is a federal shield law that will supercede the states’ laws and provide better protection.

That would be great in this case because the two Chronicle writers are not criminals; despite what federal prosecutors may think and believe. If this is ever a case to actually remind federal prosecutors that the public’s safety is vital, this is it. Unlike what Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds’ trainer is doing, by Williams and Fainaru-Wada refusing to testify means that they want to protect the identities of their sources and they want to ensure that future sources can trust them.

To put it in simple terms, think of these two reporters as the pen police who use confidential informants. You can put them into the same category as the undercover officer who use confidential informants to help prosecutors get charges and convictions of the bad guys.

If an undercover officer was forced to name the confidential informant in many cases, we would have many criminals on the street and that officer’s livelihood and life would be in jeopardy. Now I’m not saying that the reporters’ lives would be in danger if they did reveal the identities of the sources but their livelihoods and their reputations would be utterly destroyed.

But the government does not see it that way. To U.S. attorney, Douglas Miller believes that the reporters should be jailed because they are impeding his investigation.

“Only imprisonment would be the type of sanction that’s going to get their attention.” Maybe Mr. Miller doesn’t get it. These reporters’ attentions are already enlightened. The very reason why he even has a case is because of the work these two writers have put forth and instead of him thanking them for their service, he wants to put them in jail.

Talk about being an ungrateful, spoiled brat who doesn’t get his way. It’s a tragedy that the government is willing to prosecute someone for doing his or her job of reporting and bring awareness to an issue.

The sad part about this is that the U.S. government will continue to persecute reporters because they want some sort of censorship on some stories that are coming out. Let us not forget that in the current administration, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for 85 days last year for refusing to testify in an investigation into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name.

The government has yet to really go after the very person in charge of the leak because the blood trail leads right back to Vice President Dick Chaney. But Ms. Miller had to endure having a criminal record with no apology whatsoever from the government that she is probably very proud of (not the administration mind you, but the institution).

Well, if the 9th Circuit of Appeals does not give these two writers any relief, the government will be 3-0 in jailing reporters who are reporting on federal issues and providing a necessary service to the country’s citizens in their investigative reporting.

Here’s where things can become really dicey though and Mr. Miller and others should really take a close look at the situation. Forget about the fact that these two writers wrote about steroids. They are investigative reporters. Without these reporters doing their jobs, this country will not be the beneficiary of knowing about illegal activities of any sort on any level.

Without an investigative reporter being able to do his or her job, lives literally will not be saved but wasted. Products will be dangerous for us to use. Crimes will go unmolested by the judicial system because they will not have the manpower to use their own undercover agents to find out what’s going on.

In essence, if the federal government continues to be able to jail reporters for any myriad of reasons that is befitting to their own causes, a resource of news gathering under the first amendment will be forever broken.

This may sound like an unwarranted diatribe for many but take this story for what it is; two reporters are going to jail for doing their jobs. If President Bush was serious about anything he has said in any of his State of the Union addresses, he would come to the aid of these reporters and Congress would follow suit with speedy passage of a shield law that allows such reporters to continue to give us, the readers and viewers, the information necessary for a safer America.

BAIL DENIED FOR DEFENDANT IN SHOOTING The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in its Friday edition that bail has been denied for William Holmes, one of the defendants in Sunday’s near fatal shooting of five Duquesne basketball players.

Williams’ attorneys argued that the 18-year-old should be given bail as the other two defendants. My uneducated response to that request? Hell flipping naw.

As a matter of fact, I am really curious why Brandon Baynes was given bail considering that he was the other shooter in this case. Prosecutors say the two men are charged with attempted homicide. I’m sorry but isn’t that really murder?

Sometimes the legal system really befuddles me in these cases. There is still one player, Sam Ashaolu, in Mercy Hospital with two bullets in his head. The fact that bullets were flying gives me reason to say, “no bail for you” to both of those defendants.

One may argue that they deserve due process and I’ll agree with that. They deserve a speedy trial. They deserve a trial in which twelve citizens of this country listen to the evidence and give a verdict.

They deserve due process but freedom because they pulled out two lethal instruments and fired them into a crowd of unarmed men because they hated that they were not the center of attention to a young lady?

No. They don’t deserve that privilege.

It may sound cruel and unusual punishment coming from a sports columnist but I’m also very pragmatic about certain issues. When it comes to Blacks wanting to act thuggish and acting like they are basically ‘animals’, then I have no compassion for one of them landing up in jail.

In probably one of the few times of me not defending the use of the word, I’m going to say it. I wholeheartedly believe that these two young men deserve to rot in an Allegheny County jail cell because they acted like heathens on the hunt for fresh meat.

These young men were looking for a fight. How else can you explain the both of them having guns in a party at a school they do not attend? Really now. Are the defense attorneys going to turn around and say that these young men, and Brittany Jones, were the victims as well? I hope not. I hope the prosecution eats up that defense like a hot bowl of grits with butter.

The way this needs to be is that as long as Mr. Ashaolu lays in the hospital with two bullets in his head, Holmes and Baynes needs to sit in their jail cells and wait for trial. If there was a way to charge Ms. Jones with more serious crimes, I’m sure the district attorney would.

But bail for Mr. Holmes is not an option. Baynes may get out and he may not have been the shooter that put Mr. Ashaolu in the hospital and in critical condition. But Mr. Holmes needs to sit there and ponder his life for a moment. That’s the only fair thing to do while his victim lays in a medical state that is still very guarded and precarious.

THE BLOTTER CONTINUES WITH ANOTHER ARREST Not be a downer or anything but it seems that the 18-year-olds are acting plain stupid this year. In a news story from various reports, it seems that Tennessee State’s Jamal Lee Bell, 18, has been arrested on attempted murder charges in his home state of Florida.

According to one of the news stories Bell was charged with two counts of attempted murder, armed robbery, armed carjacking, grand theft, two counts of grand theft of a firearm and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to the arrest warrant.

Bell, who grew up in Lakeland and graduated from Lake Gibson High School in the spring, was being held without bail at the Davidson County Criminal Justice Center in Nashville. Officials said they would seek to extradite him to Florida on Monday.

Bell is accused of being one of four men who shot and robbed a couple in the parking lot at Narcoossee Community School in St. Cloud on June 25.

Luqman Abdul-Jabbar, 33, who sold clothing from the back of his silver Oldsmobile Silhouette van, was shot in the back and the leg, officials said. Christina Hollingsworth, 23, was shot in the leg.

If this sounds like it’s a repeat record, don’t be surprised. This generation is more about gunplay and violence than any other generation in recent memory. For many of them, toting a gun and thinking they are the cocks of the farmhouse seems to be forever on their minds.

Well as Mr. Bell and his accomplices will soon find out, being 18 years old also means that you are an adult and if you do an adult crime, you do adult time.

But am I no longer surprised by all of this violence at such a young age? Actually I’m more surprised when someone of this demographic goes out and does something philanthropic these days and that’s a sad commentary on how myself and so many others feel about today’s youth.