Friday, September 09, 2005

The Agony of DeFede, Part IV

As Many of you know, I'm no fan of Jim DeFede but felt he got a raw deal when he was canned by the Herald. I just call them like I see them. The Herald went through with this big kabuki dance about his illegal and unethical actions. Well it turns out that the state attorney's office is not interested in prosecuting DeFede. We'll see if the Herald hires him back. I doubt it.

Prosecutor won't charge DeFede


Former Herald columnist Jim DeFede will not be prosecuted for secretly taping a phone conversation with Arthur Teele, the state attorney's announced Friday.

''There are compelling reasons for the State to exercise its discretion and decline to prosecute Mr. DeFede on a criminal charge,'' Assistant State Attorney Joseph M. Centorino wrote in a memo ending the state's investigation.

Teele, a former city and county commissioner who had been removed from office last year and was under indictment on charges that he took bribes while in office, committed suicide on July 27 in The Herald lobby shortly after talking by telephone to DeFede in a rambling, emotional conversation.

''There appears to have been no malicious intent on the part of Mr. DeFede to violate the privacy rights of Mr. Teele, or to utilize the tape for any commercial purpose or to harm or to embarrass Mr. Teele,'' Centorino wrote.

The memo added: ``However, it would be incorrect for anyone to assume from this result that Mr. DeFede's actions, in tape recording a conversation without consent, were appropriate or justified. They were not. . . . It is the uniqueness of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Arthur Teele, and his last conversation with a trusted friend, which has led to the conclusion not to prosecute, rather any special journalistic privilege or legal exception accorded to Mr. DeFede.''

Centorino noted DeFede, who was fired by The Herald after admitting to taping Teele without his consent, cooperated with investigators.

``To his credit, Mr. DeFede admitted to the unconsented taping and cooperated with law enforcement in explaining his actions. This inquiry would not have occurred without his revelations.''

The memo said that prosecutors learned about the tape from a story in The Herald that ran the morning after Teele's death. Herald executives said DeFede had been fired for recording the Teele conversation without the politician's approval.

At 1 p.m. Friday, Executive Editor Tom Fiedler responded to the memo: ``I'm pleased for Jim's sake that he won't face prosecution in this situation. But, as I've said before, my decision in dismissing him was never predicated upon the legal implications of his action, but rather the ethical ones. In secretly taping Arthur Teele, Jim violated a fundamental principle that must be followed by all Herald journalists, which is that we deal openly -- and certainly legally -- in all our interactions with the public.''

DeFede was scheduled to hold a press conference at 2 p.m. to explain his reaction.

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