Reporters fined, get community service for defying order

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Associated Press WriterCAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- Four Philadelphia Inquirer reporters were each fined $1,000, and three were given community service for defying a judge's order not to contact or identify jurors in the sensational trial of a rabbi charged with murder.

The case involved Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, who was accused of arranging his wife's killing. It ended in a mistrial in November after the jury deadlocked.

The four reporters, found in contempt by a Superior Court judge Monday, were listed as co-authors of a story exploring whether the jury forewoman actually lived in Pennsylvania rather than Camden County, where the trial took place, and whether that would have meant a mistrial had the jury agreed on a verdict.

George Anastasia, Joseph Gambardello, Emilie Lounsberry and Dwight Ott faced faced maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. They could be sentenced to six months in jail if they violate the order again.

Lawyers for the reporters indicated they would appeal.

The community service ordered stemmed from suspended jail sentences of 180 days each. Anastasia was given five days of community service, and Ott and Lounsberry were each given 10 days in a community clean-up program administered by the sheriff's department.

Gamberdello was only fined because there was no evidence he contacted a juror.

In a separate lawsuit related to the trial that was filed by media attorneys, the New Jersey Supreme Court in April ruled that the judge had the authority to bar reporters from contacting jurors before the verdict, but not afterward.

New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Eric Schweiker argued that even though the reporters in the current case contacted the juror after the verdict, they still should be held in contempt because the order was in effect at the time they violated it.

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