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Showdown in the Motown: Detroit Reporter Invokes the Fifth and Refuses to Disclose Sources

An angry ex-federal prosecutor wants to know who in the government leaked damaging information about him. And he wants a reporter to tell him who talked. The reporter is refusing. The drama continues.

David Ashenfelter

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino/law office photo

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino/law office photo

By Joe Swickard
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter declined under oath this afternoon to reveal confidential sources in a legal standoff that pits journalistic principles against the obligation to testify under subpoena.
In declining to say who told the newspaper that a federal prosecutor was being investigated for his handling of a botched terrorism case, Ashenfelter invoked the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees press freedoms, and his Fifth-Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The newspaper released a statement saying Ashenfelter (far left photo)  took the Fifth because of concerns that he could face legal exposure if the sources are identified and charged with a crime for leaking the information. Richard Convertino, a former federal prosecutor who sought the information from Ashenfelter as part of a lawsuit against the government, contends that it was illegal for the information to be leaked. Convertino also contends that Ashenfelter, by refusing to give up his sources, is aiding anyone who committed a crime.
“Journalists ought not to have to resort to taking the Fifth Amendment, when the First Amendment should be enough to protect them,” the Free Press statement said. “But in light of the allegations made by Convertino in his lawsuit, it is appropriate for Ashenfelter to do so.”
It is not immediately clear what Steven M. Kohn, the attorney for Convertino, will do now.
“We will be seeking the appropriate relief,” said Kohn as he exited the deposition in Ann Arbor after a 55-minute session. Kohn said he may seek to ask a federal judge to hold Ashenfelter in contempt of court and seek other sanctions.
For Full Story

Read ticklethewire.com Column on Convertino



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