AKRON, Ohio — A defense attorney today admitted giving an FBI memo to a newspaper reporter writing about a corruption probe, and a federal judge urged a prosecutor to investigate how two other sealed documents were leaked.
The story was one of two articles that The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer had delayed publishing out of concern there would be an investigation over who disclosed the documents. Doug Clifton, the newspaper's editor, referred to the pieces in a June 30 column about the legal battle that led to the jailing of a New York Times reporter who refused to divulge a source.
A federal prosecutor had asked the judge to find out who leaked the information in an investigation of former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. No subpoenas had been issued to order anyone, including news media representatives, to appear at today's hearing.
Attorney Jerome Emoff told U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin that he gave one of the documents to a Plain Dealer reporter. The memo described an FBI interview with Ricardo Teamor, a confidant of Michael White's who pleaded guilty in April to bribery.
Gwin told Emoff that he could be found in civil contempt of court and advised him of his right to an attorney.
Gwin urged U.S. Attorney Gregory A. White, who requested the hearing, to investigate and said he may appoint an independent investigator. The prosecutor said he would consult with the Justice Department before opening an investigation.
Emoff refused to comment after the hearing. A message seeking comment was left for Clifton. The Plain Dealer reported that a lawyer it didn't identify had allowed the newspaper to review the memo.
The Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, published the story yesterday after the weekly newspaper Scene wrote about the investigation and identified the story as one that was being withheld, Clifton said in today's edition.
"Once another medium identified us as a holder of the documents in question, holding back the story became moot," Clifton said in today's edition. "And we think that it was a public service to be done in reporting the contents of the affidavit."
The newspapers reported that the FBI investigated what it believed was widespread corruption at City Hall in which businesses paid bribes to Michael White for government contracts.
Editors at both newspapers said earlier that they intended to protect the identity of the person who provided the documents.
"If you rat a guy you're going to go to hell forever," Kotz said. "I'm not going to rat anybody."
Gregory White refused to say today whether he would subpoena reporters who received documents. "I'm not going to speculate on steps that may be taken," he said.
Emoff represents Cleveland City Councilman Joe Jones, one of three defendants in a federal bribery case involving business consultant Nate Gray, also a friend of the former mayor.
Three other defense attorneys in the Gray case told Gwin they did not release the other two documents, both affidavits filed by FBI agents.
The former mayor, who has not been charged with any crime, could not be reached to comment yesterday. He left office in 2002 after serving 12 years.
The Plain Dealer reported that FBI agents told a judge that they believed White traded construction and parking contracts at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for bribes paid through Gray. Phone intercepts revealed that Gray "is a 'bag man' for businesspersons and public officials, including Michael R. White," the affidavit said.
William Whitaker, Gray's lawyer, said Gray was a legitimate businessman. Gray, of suburban Cleveland, was acquitted this month by a federal jury of four counts of wire fraud. He is to be retried on 40 counts that the jury failed to reach a verdict on, including conspiracy and bribery.