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Published: Friday, 5/11/2001

Judge to rule on WTVG's news tape

A Lucas County Common Pleas judge is scheduled to rule Monday whether county prosecutors are entitled to news footage shot by a Toledo television station that may show the culprits who set a fire in April.

Judge Ruth Ann Franks said she will view the videotape Monday and then issue her ruling.

WTVG-13, the area's ABC affiliate, is fighting a subpoena by a Lucas County grand jury that requests the tape, which prosecutors say could show who started a fire April 3 at an abandoned caretaker's house at 1108 Paxton St.

A cameraman for the station was filming footage for an unrelated story when the fire started. John Weglian, chief of the special units division for the prosecutor's office, said when the cameraman panned to the nearby fire, a group of people who started it may have been caught on a portion of the tape that never appeared on television.

Mr. Weglian said news reporters can withhold confidential source information, but not nonconfidential work product, especially when there is no other source for the information that's being sought.

Fritz Byers, a Toledo lawyer representing the television station and general counsel for the company that owns The Blade, said the station has a constitutional right not to turn over portions of the tape that weren't aired.

He said prosecutors must show the television footage is crucial to their investigation and the information being sought isn't available from other sources such as eyewitnesses.

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