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An attorney for Glenn Beck, the conservative commentator and founder of TheBlaze, told a judge on Wednesday that Beck won’t comply with an order directing him to disclose the identities of those who told his producers that 20-year-old Saudi Arabian student Abdulrahman Alharbi was the “money man” who gave the “go order” for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Alharbi is presently suing Beck for defamation. The plaintiff was at the Boston Marathon where a bomb exploded, but blames Beck and TheBlaze for falsely implicating him. Beck has maintained his statements were true and at a deposition earlier in the year, identified TheBlaze‘s president Joel Cheatwood and the head of the news company’s investigatory documentary unit Joe Weasel as those with knowledge of the sources.
Massachusetts federal judge Patti Sarris has ruled the plaintiff to be a private figure who needs not prove actual malice. Additionally, on summary judgment, she has ruled that defendants have put forth no admissible evidence that Beck’s statements are true and that Alharbi has raised a genuine issue whether defendants were negligent. She also is allowing the possibility of punitive damages. On Aug. 9, Sarris mandated that the defendants file the names of sources at the Department of Homeland Security who gave information about Alharbi. She permitted this to be done under seal and subject to a protective order.
On Wednesday, Beck’s attorney Michael Grygiel at Greenberg Traurig filed a letter to the judge saying that this won’t happen. The move opens up the possibility of sanctions and even jail time for the popular pundit.
“Defendants cannot disclose the identities of Confidential Sources 1 and 2 for several compelling reasons,” states the letter. “First and foremost, as a matter of fundamental journalistic integrity Defendants cannot disclose the identities of the Confidential Sources without their authorization. As previously represented to the Court, Defendants are justifiably concerned that substantial harm could come to the Confidential Sources if they are identified.”
Grygiel continues by telling the judge that if the confidential sources were disclosed, it would be a “near certainty that no confidential sources” would speak to TheBlaze again.
The insistence may trigger an appellate battle on First Amendment grounds. However, Massachusetts has no shield law protecting journalists from having to give up the names of confidential sources.
In the letter, Grygiel is urging the judge that “consequences, if any, of Defendants’ inability to comply with the Court’s orders should be limited to TheBlaze Inc.”
Judge Sarris could attempt to force Beck’s hand by holding him in contempt and putting him in jail. She could also declare Alharbi to be a winner in the lawsuit as a less severe sanction.
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