Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Circuit No. 13-CF-100. The Honorable Gerald R. Kinney, Judge, presiding.
The trial court's contempt order and the associated fines arising from the contemnor's refusal to comply with the trial court's order divesting him of his reporter's privilege and requiring him to surrender the documents and materials he obtained that led to the articles he wrote in connection with a murder case based on the strangulation of two men, including any information tending to identify the source of the material or an affidavit revealing the source of the material, was reversed on the ground that the identity of the source of the material could not be said to be relevant to a fact of consequence in the murder case.
Kenneth L. Schmetterer (argued) and Joseph A. Roselius, both of DLA Piper LLP, of Chicago, for appellant.
Chuck Bretz and Neil G. Patel (argued), both of Chuck Bretz & Associates, P.C., of Joliet, for appellee.
Natalie J. Spears and Kristen C. Rodriguez, both of Dentons U.S. LLP, of Chicago, and Bruce D. Brown, of Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, of Arlington, Virginia, for amicus curiae.
JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Lytton and Justice Schmidt concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] The State charged four individuals, including the defendant, Bethany McKee, with six counts of first degree murder in connection with the alleged strangling deaths of two males. After the indictment was filed, a reporter, respondent Joseph Hosey, wrote several articles that contained alleged details of the murders. During pretrial matters, counsel for McKee filed a motion to divest Hosey of his reporter's privilege, which sought the materials Hosey used to write the articles and the source of those materials. The circuit court granted the motion, and after Hosey was found in direct criminal and civil contempt for refusing to comply with the divestiture order, Hosey appealed. On appeal, Hosey argues that the court erred when it granted the motion for divestiture. We reverse.
[¶3] On January 31, 2013, the State charged four individuals, including the defendant, Bethany McKee, via indictment with six counts of first degree murder in connection with the alleged strangling deaths of two males.
[¶4] On March 1, 2013, counsel for McKee filed a motion for a gag order to seal the court records on the case. In that motion, counsel for McKee stated that the news website, the Joliet Patch, ran a series of articles online beginning on February 26, 2013, that contained alleged details of the events surrounding the murders. The articles were written bye respondent Joseph Hosey. One of the articles from February 26, 2013, stated that the Patch had obtained the police reports from the investigation. The circuit court entered an agreed order on March 1, 2013, that prohibited the parties from discussing the case with the media and that sealed the court record. Eventually, pursuant to court order, all of the individuals with the Will County State's Attorney's office, the Will County public defender's office, the Joliet police department, and the law offices representing the accuseds submitted affidavits that they were not responsible for the " leak."
[¶5] On July 3, 2013, counsel for McKee filed a motion to divest Hosey of his reporter's privilege. In addition to acknowledging that the Joliet Patch obtained police reports from the case, the motion also alleged that Hosey additionally obtained the toxicology reports from the autopsies of the victims. The motion further stated that the Joliet clerk's office: (1) did not receive a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. § 552 (2012)) request for the reports from Hosey; (2) denied all other FOIA requests for the reports; and (3) did not have copies of the reports. The motion also alleged that the divestiture was necessary because the " leak" ...