Herald reporter fired after being found in contempt - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Herald reporter fired after being found in contempt

^ Judge Stephen Goss ^ Judge Stephen Goss
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May 29, 2003

(Albany-AP) -- An Albany Herald reporter who was found in contempt of court for his behavior while covering a murder trial has been fired.

Tim Wesselman was fired after Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss found him in contempt of court yesterday. The judge gave Wesselman a two-day jail sentence with the option of serving 48 hours of community service instead.

The contempt charge against Wesselman stems from the Bill Scheer murder trial in Macon that ended last week in a mistrial. Courtroom videotape shows Wesselman going behind the judge's bench twice while the judge and jury were out of the courtroom at the Bibb County Courthouse on May 22nd, the ninth day of the ten-day trial. The newspaper immediately suspended Wesselman with pay.

The courtroom videotape, which was shown at yesterday's hearing, showed Wesselman going behind the judge's desk to use the telephone for about a minute at 4:14 p.m.

At 4:17 p.m., he returned to the bench a second time. Wesselman told Herald editors last week he had been reading the Allen Charge, a statement that compels deadlocked jurors to continue deliberating in an attempt to reach a verdict.

Goss had read the Allen Charge to the jury shortly before 4:00 p.m., but Wesselman was absent from the courtroom. The jury remained deadlocked and Goss declared a mistrial Friday afternoon. Scheer was accused of killing his father.

Wesselman's attorney, Pete Donaldson -- who also represented Scheer -- said the reporter had not intended any harm. Wesselman apologized to the judge.

posted at 10:20AM by dave.miller@walb.com