Reporter fined for approaching juror in murder trial
By The Associated Press
CAMDEN, N.J. A journalist who violated a court order by approaching a juror during the murder trial of a Cherry Hill rabbi was fined $1,000 yesterday but spared a jail sentence.
Carol Saline, a staff writer at Philadelphia Magazine, received a suspended 30-day jail sentence and the fine from Superior Court Judge Theodore Z. Davis, who found her last month to be in contempt.
She could have received a six-month jail sentence.
Davis said he decided on a lighter sentence than what he had in mind after hearing from Saline and three character witnesses.
"I sincerely realize now that the consequences of my behavior in terms of the process could have been truly horrendous," Saline told the judge.
She approached the jury member on the morning after jurors had told the judge they were unable to agree on whether Cherry Hill Rabbi Fred J. Neulander was responsible for the 1994 murder of his wife, Carol and the case appeared headed for a hung jury declaration.
But later that morning, the jury asked if it could have more time to consider the case. It wasn't until the next week that jurors declared they were hopelessly deadlocked and Superior Court Judge Linda G. Baxter declared a mistrial.
"I was surprised," said one character witness, Loren Feldman, who is Saline's editor. "I thought Carol knows better. My guess is being the friendly, gregarious person that she is, she got carried away."
The judge also received about a dozen letters of support for Saline many from prominent Philadelphia-area residents, including Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa. Saline's lawyer, Mike Pinsky, said he had about 20 more letters supporting Saline that he didn't forward to the judge.
Pinsky said Saline, a former member of Neulander's congregation, was unlike the dozens of other reporters covering the case because she was not on a daily deadline and had no way to scoop the competition.
Davis said the rest of the media didn't violate that part of the judge's order.
"The hounds stayed home," he said. "The hounds obeyed the order. The magazine journalist did not."
But the judge also said he did not want to make an example of Saline.
The news media's role has been a focal point of controversy in the Neulander case.
Four reporters for The Philadelphia Inquirer also face civil contempt charges for publishing a juror's name after the trial concluded.
Pinsky, who is also representing one of the Inquirer reporters, said their case has First Amendment ramifications and Saline's did not.
This week, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of the unusual order from the trial judge, Linda G. Baxter, that barred reporters from approaching jurors even after the trial.
A former high-ranking prosecutor from Burlington County, Michael E. Riley, told the Inquirer for yesterday's editions that he would represent Neulander in a retrial, which has not yet been scheduled.
The lawyers who represented Neulander in the original trial said they could not continue because Neulander could not pay them.
Magazine reporter found in contempt for talking to juror
Ruling sets stage for hearings for Philadelphia Inquirer journalists also accused of violating order barring media contact with jurors in rabbi's murder trial.
Newspapers' attorney claims media restrictions during trial were unfair
New Jersey Supreme Court hears arguments over judge's order stemming from rabbi's murder trial
N.J. high court upholds ban on news media contact with jurors
But justices say restriction should expire when second jury reaches verdict in rabbi's murder trial.