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Reporter to appeal judge’s order to reveal source

Published: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 11:30 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO – A suburban Chicago reporter plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that he must turn over his notes and reveal the source who leaked to him information about a gruesome double murder.

Will County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Kinney ruled Friday that Joe Hosey, a reporter and editor with the AOL news website Patch, must turn over the information within 21 days and possibly testify about how he obtained leaked police reports.

Hosey referred requests for comment to his attorney, Ken Schmetterer, who said he plans to file an appeal.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling,” Schmetterer said.

Hosey used the reports to write several stories about the January killings of 22-year-olds Terrance Rankins and Eric Glover, who police say were lured to a Joliet home and then robbed and strangled. Four people were indicted in the crime, which police have called “brutal” and “heinous” and said involved attempted dismemberment.

Hosey’s articles included information that had not been publicly released.

Attorneys for the defendants sought a gag order that would prevent parties in the case from discussing it or releasing information. They also filed a motion to determine how Hosey obtained the reports he cited, arguing that the disclosure may have violated the defendants’ rights to a fair trial.

Kinney held hearings on the motion and also received signed affidavits from more than 500 police officers, attorneys and other law enforcement employees stating they were not Hosey’s source.

Illinois has what’s known as a “shield law,” which says reporters cannot be required to reveal confidential sources unless a judge rules that all other sources of information have been exhausted and that it’s essential to the public interest.

Kinney ruled the court had exhausted all other means of determining who leaked the information. He also said if the source lied in an affidavit, he or she could have broken the law. Kinney also said that if the source was an attorney, the rules governing grand jury secrecy may have been violated.

Esther Seitz, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association, said it’s unusual for a judge to order a reporter to reveal a confidential source.

“It has to be a really extreme circumstance,” she said.

If the appellate court agrees with Kinney, Hosey will be able to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

If he does not comply with the final order in the case, he could be found in contempt of court and punished with jail time or a fine, Seitz said.

Hosey is a veteran reporter who wrote a book about the case of Drew Peterson, a former police officer from the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook who was convicted of murdering his third wife and is a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife. The book was the basis of a made-for-television movie about the case.

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