October 26, 2012

Kennebunk police again release names – this time with middle initials

Some media outlets, including the Portland Press Herald, have not published the names because the men’s identities could not be verified.

From staff reports

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On Friday, police removed the names from the police blotter they regularly send to the media, citing the continuing action in the courts. There was no legal barrier to releasing the names at the time, Dale said, but there was no ongoing harm done by waiting for a short time.

"The town believes at this point it has waited an appropriate period of time for the plaintiffs to seek temporary injunctive relief," Dale said Monday. "And at this point, the town will release those names in accordance with the court's order issued this afternoon."

In his order, Warren wrote that the names of the defendants are public information.

"The principle that court proceedings are public is essential to public confidence," Warren wrote. "If persons charged with crimes could withhold their identities, the public would not be able to monitor proceedings or observe whether justice has been done and to observe whether certain defendants may have received favored treatment."

Warren disagreed with Schwartz that identities should be concealed for defendants who also may be crime victims. But the judge said they were entitled to have their addresses withheld.

Sigmund Schutz, a lawyer for the Press Herald, said he would ask Warren on Tuesday to reconsider his ruling. He said he was hopeful that the judge would take another look at a ruling made with very little time to consider the repercussions and consequences.

"We feel strongly that names and addresses of people charged with crimes are public records," he said.

Some Maine media organizations published the names as they were received from police on Monday while others did not.

The York County Coast Star of Kennebunk, the Journal Tribune of Biddeford, WCSH-TV, WGME-TV and New England Cable News published the names.

WMTW-TV, the Bangor Daily News and The Associated Press did not.

The Portland Press Herald will not publish the names of the alleged prostitution clients without verifying their identities.

Executive Editor Cliff Schechtman said, "Justice Warren's decision to release names without address information such as hometown creates confusion and can damage the reputations of innocent individuals with similar names."

He said, "We will publish the names only when their identities are clearly revealed."

Bob Steele, a professor of journalism ethics at DePauw University in Indiana, said it was problematic to release the names without any other identifying information because it could hurt someone who is not involved.

He said journalists generally do not -- and should not -- simply publish all information provided by police.

"Our job is not to be stenographers," Steele said. "The job of journalism is to make thoughtful, careful decisions about what we publish, whether it's on paper, online or on television."

Steele said he doesn't believe there's a strong journalistic purpose to identifying the alleged "johns" in this case unless they hold prominent positions.

Because of their roles, people such as police officers, ministers or school principals warrant consideration, but their names should not automatically be published, he said.

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