Journalist Jamie Kalven won't have to give up Laquan McDonald tipster

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Independent journalist Jamie Kalven will not have to give up the source who tipped him to discrepancies between the Chicago Police account of the Laquan McDonald shooting and witness accounts, a Cook County judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge Vincent Gaughan quickly dispatched with the matter of Kalven’s subpoena during a brief hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, announcing that he had quashed a request from lawyers for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke to put Kalven on the witness stand, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Gaughan did not give his reasons in open court, instead having an aide pass out copies of a five-page ruling to members of the press. He then moved on to discussion of other witnesses. Kalven, seated in the courtroom gallery, smiled broadly.

Kalven’s reporting in the online magazine Slate was the first to question the police account of the 2014 shooting, pointing out the existence of dashboard camera video that showed that McDonald, 17, never lunged at officers before Van Dyke opened fire with a volley of 16 shots.

Lawyers for Van Dyke had argued they needed to know Kalven’s source for the information, and claimed the reporter had presented evidence to the eyewitnesses and even sat in on their interviews with FBI investigators. Kalven has denied those allegations.

In the end, Gaughan agreed, ruling that Van Dyke’s lawyers had not offered “specific details” to show Kalven had given any information to the witness, noting that an eyewitness would have known about the difference between Van Dyke’s version of events and what the witness had seen.

Gaughan also had ruled that as a reporter, Kalven can’t be forced to give up his sources except in extreme circumstances.

Outside the courtroom, Kalven said he was “relieved” by the judge’s ruling, and said he was prepared to go to jail to protect his sources. Kalven called the subpoena a “fishing expedition” and denied Van Dyke’s allegations that he sat on interviews with the FBI and witnesses, and the characterization of him by the defense as an “anti-cop” activist.

“I would stand on my reporting,” Kalven said. “The whole effort was to find out what happened to Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014.

“I think if you look at the consequence of the reporting, and not just my reporting in this case, it’s contributed to a moment, an opportunity in Chicago for really fundamental change, (in) police reform and, I think, even more broadly a kind of social change around basic issues of race. If that’s anti-police reporting, I really don’t know what to say.”

The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press had filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting Kalven – a brief that was signed by multiple news outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.

Kalven’s lawyer, Matthew Topic, has represented the Sun-Times in lawsuits seeking the release of public records under Freedom of Information laws.

Gaughan, in the past, has compelled reporters to testify or give over notes in two high-profile cases — the trial of one of the Brown’s Chicken massacre defendants, and the child porn trial of R&B star R. Kelly.