Taxpayers billed for witness travel in Holmes case
DENVER — Colorado taxpayers have spent about $1,900 in travel costs for a New York-based reporter to appear in an Arapahoe County courtroom as lawyers for theater shooting suspect James Holmes attempt to identify her confidential sources, the reporter’s attorney said.
More taxpayer costs are likely for additional travel and for outside attorneys in New York state.
A judge has ordered Jana Winter of Fox News to attend a hearing Wednesday at which Holmes’ lawyers plan to re-question a police investigator about whether he told anyone about the contents of a notebook Holmes mailed to a psychiatrist before the July 20 attack.
Holmes is charged with fatally shooting 12 people and injuring 70 in a packed Denver-area theater. The judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Winter wrote a story in July citing unnamed law enforcement officials as saying the notebook contained drawings depicting violence.
Holmes’ lawyers want to know the names of the law enforcement officials who spoke to Winter. The defense argues the leak violated a gag order and could weaken the credibility of those officials if they are called to testify in a trial.
Winter argues she should not have to identify her sources under Colorado and New York shield laws that protect reporters’ sources under some circumstances.
If the judge orders Winter to reveal her sources and she refuses, she could be jailed.
Winter’s attorney, Dori Ann Hanswirth, said Colorado law requires the Colorado Office of the Public Defender, which is representing Holmes, to pay Winter’s travel expenses. She said the total for Winter’s two trips to date is $1,878.
The public defender’s office refused to disclose the costs, citing the gag order and attorney-client privilege.
The judge has said Winter likely will have to make a third trip to Colorado before the question is resolved. That trip would also be at taxpayers’ expense.
Taxpayers likely incurred additional expenses for attorneys in New York who argued on Holmes’ behalf against Winter’s requests for a judge there to quash the Colorado subpoena. The public defender’s office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
On the same day that Winter’s story appeared on FoxNews.com, NBC News reported that the notebook contained “writings about killing people,” citing a senior law enforcement official whom it did not name. It’s unclear whether Holmes’ attorneys sought the network’s sources. An NBC News spokeswoman did not immediately return a call.