Chronicle reporters should be jailed, prosecutors say

Updated: December 23, 2006, 2:30 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Government lawyers urged a federal appeals court to jail two newspaper reporters who refused to testify about who leaked them secret grand jury testimony from a steroids investigation.

In written arguments Friday, federal prosecutors told the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams should be imprisoned for up to 18 months for not revealing the source of the transcripts.

The prosecutors asked the San Francisco-based court to uphold a judge's contempt-of-court orders against Fainaru-Wada and Williams, arguing that reporters do not have special privileges that allow them to keep evidence from a grand jury.

Chronicle lawyers have argued that making journalists identify their sources would hurt their ability to report on government wrongdoing.

In a series of articles published in 2004, Fainaru-Wada and Williams quoted from grand jury transcripts in which baseball player Jason Giambi and track star Tim Montgomery admitted taking steroids. San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who is being investigated by a grand jury for possible perjury, testified that he thought the substances he was using were legal.

Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, and three others have pleaded guilty to distributing illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

A federal judge held both reporters in contempt in September, sentencing them to 18 months in prison unless they reveal their sources. The newspaper was also held in contempt and fined $1,000 a day, but both penalties were suspended until the appellate court rules.

The appeals court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press