National Press Club

National Press Club Criticizes Illinois Court for Coercing Reporter

September 26, 2013 | By Rachel Oswald |

The National Press Club criticized Thursday the decision by an Illinois county judge last week to hold a reporter in contempt of court and to impose hundreds of dollars in daily fines after the reporter refused to reveal the source of leaked police reports.

Joseph Hosey, who edits the Shorewood, Ill. Patch website, used police reports provided to him by an anonymous source to report certain lurid details surrounding two high-profile area killings that occurred in January. The defense attorneys for one of the accused suspects called on Will County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Kinney to force Hosey to be questioned under oath about who provided him the case documents.

In August, the judge ordered Hosey to provide all papers he had related to the case and to be prepared to give up his source if the documents did not reveal who leaked the records. The former Herald-News reporter was given six-months to comply with the court order. He could be incarcerated if he fails to comply, according to a Chicago Sun-Times article.

"Judge Kinney's order appears to disregard the Illinois shield law and sends a bad signal to journalists working throughout the state and indeed the country," National Press Club President Angela Greiling Keane said. "The fines that Hosey has been ordered to pay are obscene and coercive."

Hosey's attorney has said he will file an appeal with the Illinois Appellate Court. The $300 in daily fines have been stayed in the meantime.

The state's shield law gives reporters protection from being compelled to reveal their sources if police have not first exhausted "all other available sources of information," so long as the sought-after information is not "essential to the protection of the public interest involved," according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.