Journalist Jamie Kalven won’t have to give up Laquan McDonald tipster

SHARE Journalist Jamie Kalven won’t have to give up Laquan McDonald tipster
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Journalist and activist Jamie Kalven sits in court and it is announced that he will not have to testify. Jason Van Dyke went in front of Judge Vincent Gaughan at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago Wednesday Dec. 13, 2017 for a hearing in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. Judge Gaughan ruled that journalist and activist Jamie Kalven would not have to testify. | Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Pool

Independent journalist Jamie Kalven will not have to give up the source who tipped him to the details of the Laquan McDonald shooting, a Cook County judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge Vincent Gaughan quickly dispatched with the matter of Kalven’s subpoena during a brief hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, announcing that he had quashed a request from lawyers for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke to put Kalven on the stand.

Van Dyke’s lawyers had claimed Kalven had been leaked information about the shooting that prosecutors have been barred from using in Van Dyke’s murder case, but in a five-page ruling, Gaughan called their subpoena a “fishing expedition” and that Kalven’s sources were protected under state shield laws.

“To uphold the subpoena of Jamie Kalven would be nothing more than a fishing expedition in search of information that the timeline of events, discovery documents, and testimony suggest suggest simply does not exist,” Gaughan wrote.

Kalven’s reporting in the online magazine Slate was the first to question the police account of the 2014 shooting, pointing out the existence of dashboard camera video that showed that McDonald, 17, never lunged at officers before Van Dyke opened fire with a volley of 16 shots.

Lawyers for Van Dyke had argued they needed to know Kalven’s source for the information, and claimed the reporter had presented evidence to the eyewitnesses and even sat in on their interviews with FBI investigators. Kalven has denied those allegations, and his lawyer pointed out that information Van Dyke’s lawyers said had to have come from insiders had been published in a CPD press release and widely reported in the press.

In the end, Gaughan agreed, ruling that Van Dyke’s lawyers had not offered “specific details” to show Kalven had given any information to the witness, noting that an eyewitness would have known about the difference between Van Dyke’s version of events and what the witness had seen.

Outside the courtroom, Kalven said he was “relieved” by the judge’s ruling, and said he was prepared to go to jail to protect his sources. Kalven called the subpoena a “fishing expedition,” denied the allegations and objected to the characterization of him by the defense as an “anti-cop” activist.

Jamie Kalven and his attorney, Matt Topic, talk to reporters after Wednesday’s hearing. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times

Jamie Kalven and his attorney, Matt Topic, talk to reporters after Wednesday’s hearing. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times

“I would stand on my reporting,” Kalven said. “The whole effort was to find out what happened to Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014.

“I think if you look at the consequence of the reporting, and not just my reporting in this case, it’s contributed to a moment, an opportunity in Chicago for really fundamental change, (in) police reform and, I think, even more broadly a kind of social change around basic issues of race. If that’s anti-police reporting, I really don’t know what to say.”

The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press had filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting Kalven – a brief that was signed by multiple news outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.

Kalven’s lawyer, Matthew Topic, has represented the Sun-Times in lawsuits seeking the release of public records under Freedom of Information laws.

Gaughan, in the past, has compelled reporters to testify or give over notes in two high-profile cases — the trial of one of the Brown’s Chicken massacre defendants, and the child porn trial of R&B star R. Kelly.

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