Thursday, October 26, 2000

Ex-Chiquita lawyer seeks Enquirer papers

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal judge was asked Wednesday to decide how much The Cincinnati Enquirer must reveal about articles it published two years ago on Chiquita Brands International Inc.

        A former Chiquita lawyer is suing the newspaper in U.S. District Court, claiming the Enquirer broke a promise to protect his identity if he provided information about the company.

        The lawyer, George Ventura, argues that his attorneys need to see notes, legal documents and other information gathered by Enquirer reporters while researching the articles.

        In a motion filed Wednesday in federal court, Mr. Ventura asked a judge to order the paper to provide the material.

        Enquirer attorneys have claimed that some of the material is protected by attorney-client privilege and should not be made public. They also have said Mr. Ventura's request is “unduly broad and burdensome.”

        Enquirer attorneys and publisher Harry Whipple declined comment Wednesday. Mr. Ventura's attorney, Marc Mezibov, could not be reached.

        Mr. Ventura sued the newspaper last year after a former reporter, Michael Gallagher, identified him as a confidential source for articles on Chiquita.

        Mr. Gallagher was fired last year after the newspaper paid Chiquita more than $10 million and printed front-page apologies for articles it published about the company's business practices.

        The apologies stated that Mr. Gallagher had deceived his editors about how he obtained corporate voice-mail messages, which were quoted in the articles.

        Mr. Gallagher later admitted he illegally accessed the voice-mail system and was sentenced to five years probation.

        Mr. Ventura eventually pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to probation. He claims he would not have faced prosecution if Mr. Gallagher had not identified him.

        The Enquirer's attorneys have argued that the newspaper is not responsible for anything Mr. Gallagher did after the newspaper fired him in 1998.

        In the motion filed Wednesday, Mr. Ventura seeks “all documents pertaining to ... the use of confidential sources in connection with the Chiquita story.”

        He also seeks all documents related to the Enquirer's legal settlement with Chiquita.


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