Newspaper reporter takes the stand in prior restraint case

photo Newspaper reporter takes the stand in prior restraint case images

photo of Newspaper reporter takes the stand in prior restraint case

Newspaper reporter takes the stand in prior restraint case : The state Attorney General's Office is trying to bar a local newspaper from using information in a court document obtained by a reporter.

TRENTON -- A newspaper reporter took the stand Wednesday in an ongoing legal battle between his paper and the state Attorney General's Office over a document he obtained in a child abuse case.

Isaac Avilucea, of The Trentonian newspaper, said the boy's mother voluntarily gave him the document - a complaint - in a hallway outside a courtroom in October.

"She handed me the document and said you can have it," Avilucea testified. The mother, Tashwan Ford, had first met with him at his newspaper office hours earlier, he testified, and told him about a hearing later in the day.

Avilucea said he later made a copy of the document - on a different floor of the courthouse - and gave the original back to the mother, and started to leave while phoning his boss.

Moments later, a man he did not know confronted him, and asked about the document, to which Avilucea responded: "I lawfully obtained this."

He kept walking. Sheriff's officers then briefly detained him.

Deputy Attorney General John Tolleris, called as a witness, gave a different account of the confrontation.

He testified Avilucea grabbed the document from the the mom and then tried to flee the courthouse when confronted - by him, an investigator and the boy's mother.

"I got it legally, I got it legally," Avilucea said as he hurried away, Tolleris testified. He was the state lawyer assigned to the case involving the boy.

During the incident, Tolleris was so concerned that he interrupted a court proceeding and announced to a judge, "A reporter just grabbed a complaint from a parent and is leaving he building."

The different recollections were one of many in the hearing, during which the boy's mother Tashawn Ford, as well as her mother, Tuesday Ford, who were both called to the stand in Mercer County Superior Court.

Tashawn Ford was called to the stand, but invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The case originally stems from news stories published about the 5-year-old boy's father, who faces criminal charges after the boy was found with drugs in school twice.

The October hearing and complaint have to do with custody of the boy, the Trentonian has reported.

N.J. judge to review rare ruling barring news coverage of child abuse case

After authorities realized Avilucea had the compliant, the Attorney General's Office filed a motion to bar The Trentonian from publishing any information in it, saying that it was confidential and it could harm the child if published.

It's called a prior restraint, and was initially approved by Mercer County Judge Craig Corson. The Trentoninan is trying to overturn the restraint.

Wednesday's hearing was held to determine if Avilucea - who has not been charged with a crime - obtained the compliant lawfully. Judge Lawrence DeBello did not rule after the hearing.

During the often contentious hearing, Avilucea sparred with Deputy Attorney General Erin O'Leary, who peppered him with detailed questions about how exactly he got the document.

Many times, Avilucea only answered: "I assert my journalistic privilege."

Twice, DeBello admonished Avilucea for his answers, once when O'Leary asked if had heard prior testimony from Tuesday Ford, and he answered: "If you can call it that."

Later, O'Leary and Avilucea sparred over what copier he used on the second floor - with Aviliucea invoking the privilege.

Avilucea's attorney, Bruce Rosen, objected several times, including when O'Leary wanted to question Avilucea about an interview he did with the Daily Beast, in which he called Gov. Chris Christies a "media-hating governor."

Later testimony centered on whether the state instructs people - like the boy's mother - that the complaints they are served with are confidential or not, and if the papers themselves are marked "confidential."

Tolleris said the documents are not marked confidential, and as to whether people who get them are instructed they confidential, he said, "Now we do."

Trentonian lawyer Eli Segal argued that since the state fails to police the confidentiality of the documents, they cannot now punish Avilucea. "There's no basis for going after the reporter when the government could plug the dam a few steps back in the process," Segal said.

Rosen said in court, and reiterated it afterwards, that the state has not met any burdens to prove Avilucea got the complaint in an unlawful manner. "We were pretty confident of that, and now we're even more convinced," he said.

The matter resumes in late March.

Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.


related Newspaper reporter takes the stand in prior restraint case

Found objects make this artist's work unique. See it in Guttenberg

DeMedeiros works with found and discarded objects, reassembling them into scenes or sculptures.

Find some 'Love' at Hoboken's hob'art gallery

"Love" is the title of the current group show, which will be on view until March 4,

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas for lunch with your friends

These butternut squash and black bean enchiladas are a cinch to put together.

Christie signs bill limiting painkiller prescriptions to five days

Gov. Chris Christie called the law the toughest in the nation.

Christie talk on Obamacare repeal spurs worry that N.J. residents could lose coverage

A growing number of medical professionals, lawmakers and family advocacy groups say they nervous for the people who could lose coverage.

Valentine's Day gift: Transplant patient's old heart to serve as teaching tool

Lisa Salberg says she wanted to preserve her old heart to use it as a teaching tool and raise awareness about her heart disease.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, U.S. counterpart James Mattis meeting in Washington

Donald Trump's defence secretary says he's so grateful for Canadian soldiers he could kiss them. At a meeting at the Pentagon on Monday, retired general James Mattis said there's a

N.J. congresswoman skips inauguration, hosts prayer service

Instead of watching the inauguration, more than 300 people gathered to pray at Shiloh Baptist Church Friday

Use Student Feedback Surveys To Combat Too Much Homework

Too much homework assigned to elementary through high school students is a growing national concern. Student Feedback Surveys, such as the one proposed in this article, can be used

8 Ways To Find Healthy Neighborhoods In Your City

From green space to traffic volume, the neighborhood in which you live could contribute to your health. Think about it: If your neighborhood lacks easily accessible areas for you

How To Get A High-End Interior Decor Look With Low-Cost Look-Alikes

Whether in woodwork, flooring, wall treatments or tile, you can get a luxe effect while spending less.

Dellin Betances’ arbitration hearing has Girardi and Hal talking

Joe Girardi understands why Dellin Betances has not reported for spring training yet.

With Michael Pineda, 'stuff' has never been the problem

Michael Pineda has Cy Young-caliber stuff.

Queens Democrat club expels State Senator Jose Peralta

The New Visions Democratic Club voted to expel Peralta until he rejoins the mainline Dems.

Russell Westbrook too much to handle for Knicks in 116-105 loss

The difference between the Knicks and Thunder on Wednesday came down to one player.

Knicks most valuable in NBA, but that doesn’t change ugly culture

The annual valuations for NBA teams was released yesterday by Forbes, and guess which franchise tops the list? James Dolan's.

Mets must scrap Wheeler bullpen plan after elbow 'tenderness'

Zack Wheeler will play catch Thursday and is expected to throw in the bullpen again on Friday, but the Mets will be watching carefully.

Syndergaard believes bulking up only helps — Mets hope he's right

News that Noah Syndergaard wants to throw even harder this season did cause ripples of concern at the highest levels of the organization.

Hal talks A-Rod's future role during State of the Yankees address

Hal Steinbrenner’s message during his eight-minute state of the union address with reporters Wednesday.

Fantasy Baseball: Why Daniel Murphy is the real deal

Often when you see a 30-year-old player put up monster numbers, you are going to think regression is on its way.

Fantasy Baseball: Alternative facts for the 2017 MLB season

Here are the alternative facts you need to know to guide your Fantasy Baseball team to an "Alternative Title" this season.

Rangers-Islanders rivalry still losing heat at Barclays Center

It's clear that a Rangers-Islanders game at Barclays Center isn't quite the same as squaring off at the Coliseum.

Phillies are stealing signs from the Mets (kind of)

The Phillies are stealing signs from the Mets.

Neil Walker on taking qualifying offer, desire for long-term deal

Before he made the decision to have surgery last summer, Neil Walker got some assurances from the Mets.

Why wait? Mets need to get David Wright work at first base now

Eight months after surgery for his neck injury, David Wright still hasn’t thrown a baseball.

Mets' David Wright opens up about his final post-surgery hurdle

David Wright still has one major hurdle left.