Kathryn Lyon: A Journalist Threatened with Prison

From: fa_watch@fac.fac.org

NW/FACT #275


March 27, 1996

Dear Friends,

We are sending the following press release to you because we know you share our commitment to civil rights and democracy. A terrible injustice is taking place in the state of Washington. Over twenty people were accused of sexually abusing children. Many of the people accused were unable to defend themselves, either through poverty or diminished ability to understand the charges against them. Those who were able to mount an effective defense have been acquitted, and are now suing the government officials who prosecuted them.

In response, the journalists who brought this story to the world, and who continue to publicize the behavior of officials, have been subpoenaed and all the material they collected in their investigation is being demanded be turned over. Please read the following press release and pass it on to all the organizations you know who defend the rights of journalists and activists to publicize government injustices whenever and wherever they occur.

Much more information on this case is available on our webpages and links at http://www.aa.net/~nw-fact/. Please publicize this outrage as widely as possible to prevent Kathryn Lyon from going to jail to protect her sources.

Thank you very much,

Kate Shannon



Kathryn Lyon, author of The Wenatchee Report, will resist a subpoena for deposition and for the production of records by Wenatchee Police Officer Robert Perez at a hearing to be held Monday, April 1, 1996 at 9:00 a.m. in Thurston County Superior Court, 2000 Lakeridge Drive S.W., Bldg. 2, Olympia, Washington. (Civil Motions Docket.) Perez is expected to be present. At issue will be journalistic privilege and US and Washington State Constitutional issues of privilege and free speech. Pleadings filed in support of Lyon's motion include declarations by best-selling true crime author, Jack Olsen, and by Trevor Armbrister, journalist and staff senior editor for Reader's Digest. The question of whether journalistic privileges should apply to a nonfiction book and free-lance journalistic writings is likely to be appealed as it is of constitutional magnitude and may be a question of first impression in the state.

The following may be reprinted in whole or in part.

Kathryn Lyon can be reached at: Phone (360) 866-8157; Fax (360) 867-0801.



Wenatchee Police Officer Robert Perez has subpoenaed many of the notes, video and audio tapes, and other documents in the possession of Kathryn Lyon, author of "The Wenatchee Report", a 200 page investigative report which documented alleged civil rights violations by Wenatchee government officials in their prosecution of multiple sex "ring" cases in Wenatchee over the last two years. The Wenatchee Report was considered by U.S. Attorney Janet Reno who recently declined a federal investigation into the allegations. Lyon was subpoenaed for deposition on February 2, 1996, just hours after the Reno decision. Also subpoenaed were KREM Television newsman, Tom Grant, and Bob Kinkaide, a Wenatchee citizen who independently investigated the Wenatchee cases and gathered extensive documentation. Together the three were responsible for much of the national public awareness of the controversial prosecutions.

Lyon will attempt to resist the subpoena at a hearing to be held Monday, April 1, 1996 at 9:00 a.m. in Thurston County Superior Court. Pleadings filed by Lyon's attorneys include declarations by Trevor Armbrister, journalist and staff senior editor for Reader's Digest, and by Jack Olsen, best-selling true crime writer. Olsen and Armbrister support applying journalistic privileges to Ms. Lyon's reports and other writing projects. Armbrister, who was recently in Wenatchee investigating for an upcoming feature in Reader's Digest, said in his declaration that the attempt to subject Lyon to submit to deposition and production of documents "constitutes an outrage." Armbrister added, "The parties requesting the deposition know what has been happening in Wenatchee; it is their silence and refusal to face unpleasant truths which has compelled courageous journalists...to proceed with their work."

Lyon contends that the subpoena and deposition are thinly-veiled attempts to silence her, concerned Wenatchee citizens and other investigative journalists. At issue is the need to protect confidential sources and confidential information, Lyon says, and adds that many of her sources may be in danger of prosecution or other retaliatory action if their statements to her are provided in full to Wenatchee government officials. She fears that, in the future, Wenatchee citizens will refuse to come forward to journalists about past and ongoing government actions.

"Deposing a journalist would discourage the free flow of information to the public, said Steven Hemmat who, along with Thomas Nast, is Lyon's attorney. "A journalist should not be compelled to serve as a private investigator to a prosecutor in a civil suit."

Lyon contends that there are recent examples that suggest oppression by the Wenatchee government including the forced temporary closure of a Wenatchee America On-Line site because it contained court documents negative to Perez, and evidence that Wenatchee police keep dossiers on Wenatchee residents who write or speak out in criticism of the Wenatchee government. According to Lyon, sources tell her they are increasingly afraid to come forward if they think what they say may be published.

There is evidence that multiple-victim child sex abuse prosecutions are ongoing in Wenatchee. James Osborn, an unmarried Wenatchee drug/alcohol counselor who recently applied for a foster care license for a teenage girl, was charged last week by Wenatchee prosecutors with nine counts of Communicating With a Minor for Immoral Purposes in connection with three teenage girls.