June 26, 2003
Judge studies suspect's bid for reporters' transcripts
BY MIKE ROBINSON
A federal judge agreed Wednesday to consider a request from alleged Irish terrorist Michael McKevitt for transcripts of interviews between Chicago reporters and a key prosecution witness against McKevitt.
U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman said the transcripts could be essential to the defense of McKevitt, on trial this week in Dublin on terrorism charges.
''A person on trial for a serious criminal offense has a right to defend himself,'' Guzman said. He took the request under advisement.
''I'll make a decision as soon as I can,'' Guzman told attorneys for McKevitt and reporters Abdon Pallasch and Robert C. Herguth of the Chicago Sun-Times and Flynn McRoberts of the Chicago Tribune.
Attorneys for the three reporters claim the content of the tapes is privileged under the U.S. Constitution and an Illinois shield law, which allows reporters to keep some of the information they gather confidential.
McKevitt has been described as leader of the ''Real IRA,'' a splinter group at odds with the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The Provisional IRA stopped violent activity as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
FBI mole David Rupert, who reportedly infiltrated the Real IRA's fund-raising network in the Chicago area, is testifying as a key prosecution witness in the Special Criminal Court, Green Street, Dublin, attorneys told Guzman.
McKevitt attorney John Boyd told Guzman that Rupert's comments to the reporters could show he is not a credible witness.
The tapes were made as part of a book project initially undertaken by Pallasch and McRoberts, attorneys said. They said McRoberts withdrew from the project and Herguth took his place.
Pallasch attorney Kathleen Roach said the Irish court has declined to make any statement on whether the transcripts would be of value in the case, despite a request from McKevitt's defense attorneys.
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