[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [opinion pdf text] Tuesday that Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) [official profile] violated s. 2511 of US Code Title 18 [text] by disclosing an illegally obtained tape to reporters in 1996. The majority found that McDermott violated the rights of Representative John Boehner (R-OH) [official profile] who was heard on the taped phone call involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and ordered McDermott to pay Boehner over $700,000 in damages and legal costs. The tape was recorded over a police scanner by a couple in Florida. The court said, "Because there was no genuine dispute that Representative McDermott knew the Martins had illegally intercepted the conversation, he did not lawfully obtain the tape from them."
In dissent, Judge David Sentelle said McDermott had a first Amendment right to disclose the tape, a view expressed by McDermott's lawyer who said that a ruling against McDermott would significantly affect reporters and newsmakers. Eighteen news organizations had echoed this concern by filing a brief supporting McDermott. McDermott has released a statement on the appeals court ruling, invoking the dissent and insisting that
The American people have a right to know when their government's leaders are plotting to deceive them, and that is exactly what was happening during a telephone call in 1996 involving Republican House leaders, including then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Rep. John Boehner.AP has more.