N.H. Supreme Court upholds decision on ‘Monitor’ reporter’s testimony

  • Visitors, including Carl Gibson of Concord (in red) listen to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speak during a house party at the home of Arne Arnesen in Concord on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 31, 2015.(ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file) ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 10/19/2017 11:58:53 PM

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has denied the Monitor’s request to reconsider a September order that could compel a former reporter to testify in a criminal trial.

The criminal case against Concord-based liberal activist Carl Gibson is pending in Merrimack County Superior Court. Gibson is accused of trying to suppress voter turnout in the special election for state representative in May 2015 by sending a hoax email, supposedly from Republican Yvonne Dean-Bailey, saying she was dropping out of the race. Despite the email, Dean-Bailey went on to win.

Gibson’s identity was contained within the electronic properties of an attachment in the email. In an interview with the Monitor, Gibson said he “probably had a few too many beers” before engaging in “a prank I thought I would play in the heat of the moment.”

Soon after the story published, state prosecutors issued a warrant for Gibson’s arrest. Assistant Attorney General Stephen LaBonte also subpoenaed Monitor reporter Nick Reid to testify against Gibson at trial to describe his reporting process and interview with Gibson.

The Monitor, through attorney Bill Chapman, objected and argued the newsgathering privilege in the state and U.S. constitutions protect Reid from being forced to testify.

Initially, the lower court ruled in the Monitor’s favor and quashed the subpoena. However, the state appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order.

Four justices affirmed the Sept. 21 ruling on Tuesday, saying it did not overlook any “points of law or fact.”

The justices based their opinion on only state law, and not on the U.S. Constitution. They asked the lower court to consider whether there is a privilege under the U.S. Constitution.

Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara is presiding over the criminal case.

Reid no longer works at the Monitor.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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