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Tag: Rick Convertino

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino Fails Again to Get Detroit Reporter to Disclose Sources

David Ashenfelter

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT –– Ex-federal prosecutor Richard Convertino has once again failed in his bid to get ex-Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter to disclose his sources.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland ruled Monday that Ashenfelter, who recently retired from the Free Press, had the right to invoke his Fifth Amendment privileges, according to a court document filed Monday.

It was third time in the protracted legal battle that a federal judge ruled against Convertino in his bid to get Ashenfelter to sing. Convertino, now a private attorney, is suing the Justice Department, claiming it illegally leaked information about him to Ashenfelter.

To read more click here.

Reporter Scores Victory in Fight to Protect Confidential Sources

The press scored a big victory in Detroit on Tuesday when a federal judge ruled that a Detroit Free Press reporter did not have to disclose sources during a deposition because he feared incriminating himself. It’s an interesting defense and an interesting ruling.

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

By Sandra Svoboda
Detroit Metro Times
DETROIT — Veteran journalist David Ashenfelter had been ordered three times to submit to a deposition in a former federal prosecutor’s lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, is seeking the identity of an unnamed source or sources in a January 2004article Ashenfelter wrote about an internal investigation into Convertino’s handling of a high-profile terrorism-related trial following 9/11.

Convertino won convictions against three of the four men tried, but those verdicts were overturned after it was discovered Convertino withheld evidence from the defense.

Convertino alleges that the leak was a violation of his rights under the federal Privacy Act. He can’t win his case without knowing who talked to Ashenfelter, his attorney has said.

Ashenfelter faced the possibility of jail or fines for contempt of court if he didn’t cooperate with the deposition.

Although U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland had previously ruled that Ashenfelter had to answer questions from Convertino’s attorney, Tuesday in a closed-door deposition Cleland agreed with Ashenfelter and the paper’s attorneys that the Pulitzer Prize winner had sufficient grounds for a Fifth Amendment defense – in other words he could refuse to answer questions on the grounds of possible self-incrimination.

For Full Story

Court of Appeals Orders Detroit Reporter to Answer Pre-trial Questions in Case Involving Confidential Sources

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

The chess game between an ex-federal prosecutor and a Pulitzer Prize reporter continues to play out in Detroit. The media and federal law enforcement community is watching. The latest court order came down on Thursday.

By JOE SWICKARD
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — A federal appeals court said this afternoon that Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter will have to sit for pretrial questioning by attorneys for a former federal prosecutor wanting to find out who leaked word to Ashenfelter that he was under an internal investigation.
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Free Press attorneys had asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the deposition process ordered by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland for next Tuesday, but the appellate court said in a two-page order that Ashenfelter hadn’t shown Cleland abused his discretion.

Ashenfelter has refused to name his source for his 2004 story, citing First Amendment freedom of press protections and Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, came under fire and stood trial for alleged misconduct in a discredited 2003 terror trial. He has said that Ashenfelter may have conspired with the leakers to break federal laws. Convertino was acquitted in 2007 of hiding evidence from defense lawyers in the terror trial.

Cleland has said he’ll decide if Ashenfelter’s assertions are valid on a question-by-question basis.
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex- New York Times Reporter Judith Miller Says Press Battle With Ex-Fed Prosecutor Shows Need For Shield Law

By Judith Miller
New York Post

ON April 20, Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter may win his second Pulitzer Prize.

Judith Miller/photo judithmiller.com

Judith Miller/photo judithmiller.com

The next day, he may head to jail.

Ashenfelter, 60, is the latest reporter to face prison for refusing to reveal his confidential sources — in this case, for a story he wrote in 2004 about alleged misconduct by a prosecutor in a terrorism case in Detroit soon after 9/11.

Jail time became a real possibility when US District Judge Robert Cleland recently refused to delay Ashenfelter’s deposition about his sources or let him take his case to an appeals court.

The case is unusual in that Ashenfelter claims that his refusal to divulge the identify of his sources is justified not only by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression, but also by the Fifth Amendment, which protects him against self-incrimination.

Many journalists have been uneasy about this invocation of the Fifth Amendment — arguing that it suggests, inaccurately, that he may have done something wrong. But the lack of a federal shield law that would legitimize his stance has forced Ashenfelter to resort to some legal creativity.

For Full Story