ST. PAUL -- A Ramsey County judge on Friday gave a reporter 21 days to reveal the names of his sources from a four-year-old story about a decision not to keep the head football coach at Tartan High School.
If he doesn't appeal the decision or comply, he'll be fined $200 a day.
"The fine is not only severe, but I think it sets an extremely bad precedent," said the longtime reporter, Wally Wakefield.
He said he hasn't made a decision whether to appeal.
His attorney, Mark Anfinson, said it was a "tough, tough call. No reporter west of New York City can sustain a fine of $200 per day."
"I think Judge (Dale) Lindman has tried very hard to apply the law in a way he thinks is appropriate, but I do not think the law or the way he has interpreted it are sufficiently protective of Mr. Wakefield's First Amendment rights."
The coach, Richard Weinberger, had been the subject of controversy during his 10-year tenure as head coach.
The article in the Maplewood Review quoted a number of sources who had been promised confidentiality by Wakefield.
Stephen Cooper, the attorney representing Weinberger, called the comments in the story "scathing and untrue."
Weinberger sued the school district and several of its employees alleging breach of contract, defamation, and related claims. He didn't sue the newspaper, its corporate owner, or any of its employees.
But his attorney later persuaded the judge to direct Wakefield and others to identify their sources for the article.
The newspaper took the case to the Appeals Court, which said the lower court had misapplied the law and sent the case back to the lower court for further action.
The state's Free Flow of Information Act gives news organizations protection from having to divulge their sources, with some exceptions. While the trial judge cited the law's exemption for defamation, the Appeals Court said the lower court had failed to make the necessary findings of fact and analysis of the law to invoke that exception.
Wakefield, a reporter for 22 years, and the Maplewood Review said being forced to reveal sources violated the reporters privilege.
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