Sunday, February 6, 2005
The U. S. Sixth Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of the extremely messy lawsuit that George Ventura, former attorney for Chiquita Brands International, had filed against the Cincinnati Enquirer, after Ventura was identified as a source for a series of articles published by the Enquirer. Ventura had argued breach of contract, namely that the Enquirer, through its reporters, Michael Gallagher and Cameron McWhirter, had promised him confidentiality in return for assistance in gaining information they used in writing some stories published in the Enquirer which it ran in 1998. "According to the record", Ventura was already identified as a source; indeed Ventura himself told the company he was speaking with Gallagher, "in an apparent effort to convince Chiquita that he was not a confidential source." Reviewing the grant of summary judgment de novo, the Sixth Circuit found no evidence that the newspaper revealed Ventura's identity, no duty owed to Ventura by the Enquirer, and no breach of contract, since public policy "precludes enforcements of agreements to conceal a crime." The information Gallagher obtained with Ventura's help was illegally gained through passwords Ventura provided to the Chiquita Brands International voice mail system. Gallagher pled guilty in 1999 to charges of illegal access and was sentenced to five years probation. He also lost his position with the Enquirer. The Enquirer repudiated the series, and paid Chiquita more than ten million dollars in 1998. In its ruling, the Sixth Circuit also discusses briefly the role of Ohio's shield law. The case is Ventura v. Cincinnati Enquirer, 03-3440 (decided Jan. 28, 2005)(see link above).