San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada face longer terms in prison than the combined sentences of all the defendants convicted in the steroid scandal they helped expose, says the Los Angeles Times. Williams, 56, and Fainaru-Wada, 41, have been sentencted to as long as 18 months in prison for refusing to tell the U.S. Justice Department who leaked grand jury transcripts implicating baseball stars – including Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi – in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, steroid ring. They are free pending an appeal hearing, set for Feb. 12.
In the BALCO case, not only journalists, but two former Justice Department officials, have suggested that prosecutors are overreaching. “This is very disturbing,” said Mark Corallo, public affairs chief under former Attorney General John Ashcroft and involved in reviewing requests for media subpoenas. “There is no national security issue here. There is no public safety issue. If they can make this the standard, then confidential-source reporting as you know it is done, over.” Tasia Scolinos, the current director of public affairs, said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has not changed policy on subpoenaing reporters. The number of approved subpoenas has remained steady over the last 15 years: 14 from 1991 through 2000, and five since then.