Veteran reporter Catherine Herridge is facing possible jail time for refusing to reveal her sources, according to a report from the Epoch Times.
Herridge, who now works as a senior correspondent for CBS News, was employed by Fox News when she reported on information from confidential sources relating to Chinese scientist Yanping Chen. In August, a court ordered Herridge to disclose the identity and motivation of one of her sources, who alerted her about an FBI investigation into the scientist.
Despite the court order, Herridge refused to reveal her source during a mandated deposition. The veteran reporter “refused to answer questions regarding the identity of her confidential source(s) and other aspects of her reporting process and editorial decision-making,” lawyers for Chen said in a recent filing.
Chen’s lawyers asked the court to hold Herridge in contempt, a charge that could result in jail time. On October 27, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper stated that Herridge would likely be held in contempt unless she complied with the order.
“With contempt proceedings now teed up, one of two outcomes appears likely: either Herridge will be held in contempt in the near future and can immediately appeal that order, or, as sometimes occurs in these cases, the sources may release Herridge from the privilege rather than watch her undergo the consequences of contempt,” Cooper, an Obama appointee, wrote in a ruling.
The ruling was issued in response to the August order that called on Herridge to reveal her sources.
Herridge’s lawyers have noted that Cooper has discretion on whether to bring contempt charges. “The court should exercise its discretion to avoid forcing Ms. Herridge to suffer a contempt sanction as the price for securing review of her First Amendment rights,” the legal team said.
Cooper responded by saying that he knew he had discretion, and is exercising it to reject Herridge’s motion to appeal the August order. “The court thus makes clear what may have been murky before: Exercising its discretion, the court concludes that certification is not warranted in this case because Herridge can appeal a subsequent contempt order,” Cooper said.
The case stems from a series of 2017 reports from Fox News that revealed that Chen was the subject of a years-long investigation by the FBI. Chen, a naturalized U.S. citizen, founded and owned a university that was attended by U.S. Military personnel.
Chen was informed by the FBI that she was not being charged in 2016, though she opted to file a lawsuit two years later, alleging that information was illegally provided to Herridge.
Judge Cooper has said that Chen’s “need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege.”