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Judge orders reporter jailed for not disclosing source

A judge has ordered a reporter jailed unless he reveals who gave him a sealed court decision. Tim Roche of the Stuart News used the contents of the decision in a story on a parental rights case.

On Monday, retired Circuit Judge John Ferris said Roche will be guilty of criminal contempt if he does not identify his source by Oct. 30, subjecting him to a 30-day jail sentence.

Ferris ruled that society's interest in protecting children and obeying court orders "far outweighed" Roche's claim of a First Amendment right to withhold the identity of his source.

So far, Roche has continued to refuse, his attorney Robert Lord said Tuesday.

"The assumption at this point is that he is not going to reveal the source, and we will pursue an appeal," Lord said. "There is no reason to put this off."

He said he was making arrangements with the state attorney's office to surrender Roche, who would be immediately released on his own recognizance or a low bail during an appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

In a story on May 30, Roche quoted from a sealed order issued by Circuit Judge Paul Kanarek that questioned the ability of a mother to care for her 2-year-old daughter. The girl's older sister was beaten to death in 1988.

Two months after the story was published, the judge terminated the mother's rights to the toddler.