Illinois judge orders Patch reporter to hand over documents identifying source in murder trial

An Illinois judge denied a Patch reporter protection under the state shield law and ordered him to reveal his confidential source about a high-profile double murder trial in the town of Joliet.

Will County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Kinney ruled on Thursday that reporter Joseph Hosey must provide the court with all the documents he received from his confidential source “and any and all information which tends to identify the source of the material provided” related to the January stranglings of two Joliet men, Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins.

If the source’s identity cannot be determined from the documents, Kinney ordered Hosey to provide the court with an affidavit “stating details of how these documents were obtained, when these documents were obtained, and who provided the documents to the reporter,” the ruling stated.

Hosey must provide the documents within 21 days of the Aug. 29 ruling. Kinney also ordered the reporter to attend a status hearing scheduled for Oct. 3.

In his ruling, Kinney said the reporter’s privilege had been overcome because all other methods to gain the source’s identity had been exhausted. The court collected more than 500 affidavits from “each and every individual who had the opportunity to have provided the information” to the reporter, according to the ruling. All denied giving documents to the journalist.

According to the order, the court is pursuing the identity of Hosey’s confidential source to determine if the grand jury rules of secrecy were violated.

On Jan. 14, the Joliet published the first in a series of articles about the deaths of Glover and Rankins whose bodies were found four days earlier. Four people were charged with their murders, including Bethany McKee, whose attorney complained to the state attorney that Hosey somehow acquired "full reports" on the double homicide, including toxicology reports.

According to court documents, the state attorney's office believed that the Joliet Police Department leaked the reports and that the office was "very disappointed."

McKee's attorney, Neil Patel, did not return a call for comment. He told The Herald-News that he understood that compelling Hosey to reveal his source would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment, but that his concern was for his client's right to a fair trail and due process. Hosey declined to comment and his attorney, Ken Schmetterer, could not be reached.

The state has had a shield law since 1982, which specifically addresses confidential sources.

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