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Thursday, July 06, 2006

L.A. Jail Bans New York Times Reporter for Impersonating Inmates Lawyer

The Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles has barred a New York Times reporter from the facility for allegedly misrepresenting herself in an effort to interview Anthony Pellicano, the celebrity detective at the center of a Hollywood wiretapping scandal.

Allison Hope Weiner, who has written about the Pellicano case, got into the jail last month after presenting a State Bar of California card and asking to speak with the investigator. Weiner, who earned a degree 20 years ago from the USC law school, is registered with the California bar but has never done legal work for Pellicano or the New York Times.

Michael Benov, warden of the detention center, issued an order in February saying that, for security reasons, no one could visit Pellicano except his lawyer or immediate family. After learning that Weiner was admitted to a room in the jail where prisoners meet with their lawyers, Benov ordered an investigation.

Guards brought Pellicano from his cell to the meeting room, but he refused to talk to Weiner after learning that she was a reporter.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times confirmed that Weiner had received a letter from Benov permanently barring her from the facility.

The spokeswoman, Diane McNulty, said the newspaper believed that the ban was unjustified and intended to appeal Benov's action to the regional director of the federal Bureau of Prisons.


The New York Times ethics code states that "staff members may not pose as police officers, lawyers, businesspeople or anyone else when they are working as journalists."


The spokeswoman said that when Pellicano entered the room, Weiner identified herself as a reporter for the New York Times and the inmate told her that he did not want to speak to her.

Pellicano described the meeting from his perspective.

"I was upstairs in my cell and was told by the guards that 'my lawyer' was here to see me," he said in a statement relayed by his attorney, Steven F. Gruel. "I told [the guards] I did not think that was possible, because I knew that my only lawyer, Mr. Gruel, had returned to San Francisco the day before."

Pellicano said the guard insisted that his lawyer was waiting and led him down to the meeting room.

"I'm outraged," Pellicano said in the statement. "Based on my knowledge of MDC procedures, I believe this reporter misrepresented herself as my attorney by using her legal bar card to get in to see me."

He said he reported the incident to the warden. Gruel told the jail's legal department what happened.

"I was shocked," Gruel said. "Every time I go to see him … it's like trying to get into Ft. Knox."


Funny that the NYT has an ethics code, especially after publishing leaked Top Secret Programs that were to catch terrorists.

Somehow I do not believe the NYT or the reporter. I think they would do whatever they wanted to get a story, including posing as his lawyer to get to see him.

The fact the reporter did not want to answer questions and gave all comments through the NYT's spin machine spokeswoman, gives me the feeling that something was not right, and the NYT has to cover for the wrongful actions of its reporter.

I will tend to believe the Detention Center officials over the NYT and its reporter, especially when his own real lawyer says, "Every time I go to see him … it's like trying to get into Ft. Knox."

If it is that hard to get to see him and that is his real lawyer, what kind of tricks did this reporter pull to get in and see him, especially if it is that difficult to get in?