TN reporter called to court under gag order

A Kingsport Times-News reporter was summoned to court last week for possible violation of a gag order in a pending murder trial even though the gag order did not apply to the media or the specific reporter.

Further from the Times-News report:

Jeff Bobo, who covers Hawkins County, was served the show cause order by Juvenile Judge Daniel G. Boyd early in November for a story that published Nov. 4 involving the murder of Margaret Jack Sliger.

Sliger was allegedly murdered by a 14-year-old boy. He is accused of shooting Sliger twice, slitting her throat and dragging her into a bush near her home.

…On Nov. 2, Boyd issued a gag order which stated that all attorneys, parties, investigators and law enforcement officers involved in the case were forbidden to make any statements to the media. The gag order did not apply to the media, and if Boyd had tried to issue a gag order on the media, it would have been a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, according to defense attorney R. Wayne Culbertson, who represented Bobo in the case.

Bobo spoke with Sliger’s aunt, Bessie Mae Livesay, about the murder and published a story from that interview on Nov. 4. Boyd issued the show cause order the next day. On Nov. 13, the Sullivan County Sheriff’’s Office served the order to Bobo.

Culbertson filed a motion to quash the order, and when Bobo went to court on Dec. 1, the case was dismissed.

But while Bobo sat in the courtroom, the Times-News was denied entry for purposes of covering the proceeding. Instead, the newspaper was forced to wait on the transcripts to report the story.

During the court session, Boyd told Culbertson and Bobo that while he respected the reporter and understood he had a job to do, the judge still had an obligation to protect the defendant. Boyd said that because of his age, the defendant had “a little bit more rights to make sure things stay on the down low, so to speak, as much as possible…. (T)he judge said he just wanted Bobo to use more discretion about “certain things when you print them.”