PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A federal judge yesterday ordered television reporter Jim Taricani freed from his home-confinement sentence, bringing to an end the criminal contempt case against him.
Taricani, 55, was expected to be released on April 9, two months earlier than his original release date. The newsman was sentenced Dec. 9 to six months of home confinement for refusing to disclose the source of a videotape that showed a former mayoral aide taking a cash bribe. Yesterday's order frees Taricani from probation or any further court supervision.
U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres wrote in his order that Taricani had fully complied with all the conditions of the home confinement, which included a ban on him working, giving media interviews or using the Internet. Prosecutors did not lodge any objections to releasing him two months early, Torres said in his order.
"We are very relieved, very happy," said Taricani's wife, Laurie White. She said the couple plans to go to New York this weekend for shopping and museum visits.
Taricani, who works for the NBC affiliate WJAR-TV, has been confined to his North Kingstown home since December after refusing to say who gave him the videotape. The videotape was protected by a court order as part of the government's "Plunder Dome" investigation into corruption at Providence City Hall.
The court ordered Taricani to say where he had gotten the tape, and he refused.
WJAR said in a statement that it was extremely pleased by Torres' ruling, and looked forward to Taricani's return to work in the near future. White said she expected her husband to be back at work as early as next week, at least on a part-time basis.
Taricani, who is a heart transplant recipient and suffers from a variety of medical issues, cannot speak to the news media until his release from home confinement. White said that during the past four months, Taricani has gone to Boston twice for medical treatment. She said her husband's health is stable, and he's looking forward to be able to go on walks and enjoy the outside air.
Taricani is one of a small but growing number of reporters ensnared in the legal system for defying judicial demands to disclose where they got their information. At least 16 reporters and 14 news organizations are involved in legal fights in courthouses from New York and Washington to San Francisco.
Six days after Taricani was found guilty, his source, defense lawyer Joseph Bevilacqua Jr., admitted that he had given Taricani the tape. Bevilacqua had previously denied under oath that he had been Taricani's source and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.