After four months home confinement, reporter has no regrets
The boredom was worse than reporter Jim Taricani expected during his four month home confinement sentence for protecting a source. Too much TV watching, house cleaning and reading left him looking for ways to kill time, and appreciating the freedom he'd taken for granted.
''It was certainly much better than prison,'' he said. ''But it gets to you after a while. When you lose your freedom, it's a big deal.''
On Saturday, Taricani's ankle bracelet was broken off, he bid his probation officer good bye and he planned a trip to New York City to enjoy museums, shopping and time outside with his wife. Though his confinement was tougher than anticipated, Taricani, 55, said he doesn't regret his decision to stay quiet about who gave him an FBI surveillance video that exposed government corruption.
''We had a real good reason to inform the public of what public corruption really looked like,'' Taricani told The Associated Press. ''Rarely do they see a high ranking public official taking a $1,000 cash bribe on video.''
Taricani broke no law by airing in 2001 the secret FBI tape, which was part of an investigation that ultimately sent former Providence Mayor Vincent ''Buddy'' Cianci and other officials to prison. The newsman was sentenced in December after being found in criminal contempt for refusing to give up his source.
Taricani completed his home confinement Saturday, two months earlier than his original release date. He was granted early release after a federal judge found that he had complied with all the conditions of the home confinement, which included a ban on working, giving media interviews or using the Internet.
He described the experiences as psychologically draining.
''You're just not free,'' he said. ''You have an ankle bracelet on, you're monitored, your probation officer shows up unannounced. It's taxing.''
During the four months, Taricani read books and newspapers, watched cable news, cleaned his house and worked on a mystery novel he had started over the summer.
''I found myself just doing things to make the time go by,'' he said.
Taricani, who works for the NBC affiliate WJAR-TV, was given home confinement because of his health: he had a heart transplant in 1996 and takes medication daily to prevent organ rejection.
Taricani is one of several journalists nationwide who have become locked in First Amendment battles with the government over confidential sources. Reporters for Time and The New York Times have recently been threatened with jail as part of an investigation into the disclosure of an undercover CIA officer's identity.
Taricani said he expects to go back to work on Wednesday.
After Taricani was convicted, Providence defense attorney Joseph Bevilacqua Jr. came forward and admitted he leaked the tape.
When he sentenced Taricani in December, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres said the newsman had no First Amendment right to protect a source who broke the law by providing him with information. Attorneys, investigators and defendants were under court order not to release any tapes connected to the City Hall corruption probe, and a special prosecutor had been appointed to find out who leaked the tape.
Taricani said Saturday that he'd promised to protect his source's identity and was acting on principle.
''If reporters can't have the opportunity to use confidential sources when they need to, we no longer have a free press,'' he said.
Bevilacqua told prosecutors that he never required Taricani to withhold his identity, and said he signed a waiver of confidentiality.
But Taricani said Bevilacqua insisted that his identity be kept confidential, and suggested the waiver was forced.
''I knew that he was in a position where he had to do that otherwise he would've been highly suspect,'' Taricani said. ''I knew as soon as I saw it that he had no intention of really wanting me to give his name up.''
Prosecutors have not decided whether to criminally charge Bevilacqua for leaking the tape.