Saturday, April 10, 1999

Chiquita informant targeted?


Lawyer claims other suspects being ignored

BY DAN HORN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Salt Lake City lawyer complained to a judge Friday that prosecutors unfairly targeted him while ignoring other suspects in the investigation of voice-mail theft at Chiquita Brands International Inc.

        George Ventura, a former legal counsel for the company, filed a motion in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court that claims he is the victim of selective prosecution.

        The motion asks the judge to dismiss all charges against Mr. Ventura because the methods used by prosecutors violated his constitutional rights.

        Mr. Ventura faces 10 felony charges and is accused of giving two former Cincinnati Enquirer reporters the secret codes needed to access Chiquita's voice-mail system.

        One of those reporters, Michael Gallagher, was fired by the newspaper and has pleaded guilty to two charges accusing him of illegally accessing the system.

        The other reporter, Cameron McWhirter, was not charged with a crime and has testified that he never accessed the system himself.

        Messages from the voice- mail system were included last year in articles the Enquirer published about Chiquita's business practices. The newspaper later renounced the articles in a front-page apology and agreed to pay Chiquita in excess of $10 million.

        At a court hearing last week, Mr. Gallagher identified Mr. Ventura as one of his confidential sources.

       

        In the motion filed Friday, Mr. Ventura's attorneys argue that several others, including Mr. McWhirter and other Enquirer employees, could have been charged with crimes.

        “Simply stated, there are several individuals who appear to have been immediately involved in Gallagher's interception and access of Chiquita's voice mail,” the motion states. “But these persons have not been charged with a criminal offense.”

        Specifically, the motion cites testimony in which Mr. Gallagher claimed the newspaper's editors and lawyers had authorized him to destroy tapes and documents relating to the Chiquita articles.

        If that occurred, the motion states, those individuals could have been charged with a crime.

        Mr. McWhirter, however, has testified that he recalls no one giving such an order.

        Mr. Ventura also argues that Mr. McWhirter and Mr. Gallagher were spared serious charges because they signed cooperation agreements with prosecutors.

        Mr. Gallagher's agreement requires him to name all sources, while Mr. McWhirter's does not.

        “Gallagher himself has not been prosecuted to the extent or in the heavy-handed manner that the special prosecutor chose to charge Mr. Ventura,” the motion states.

        Mr. Ventura's trial is set to begin in July.

       



Hope emerges from the rubble
Sirens worked, but some slept through
Families flew from their beds
Bengals coach: 'God's hand on me'
Driver got upside-down trip on freeway median
Photographer encounters death, devastation
House is a cheap price to pay for life
Community safe, serene and vulnerable
In Addyston and Ripley County, some feel blessed just to be alive
Survivors eager to swap stories
Two died in field; two died on roads
Adjusters quick to arrive at disaster
To file a claim
Dealing with storm aftermath
Don't rush repairs after storm
Tips to picking a contractor
Kids need help to overcome grief, fears
Talking to kids
Phones, power out until Sunday
Rescue team did tough job
Storm could spur support for tax levy
Storms' memories linger after damage is repaired
Mobilization was instant
Tornado tales
TV/radio stations had reason to boast
Volunteers grab chain saws, mops as workers untangle wires
At least 7 businesses destroyed
911 calls reveal confusion, fear
After-prom plans in the works
Butler Co. jail warden resigns
- Chiquita informant targeted?
Drug czar: Parents aren't doing enough to prevent teens' use
Ex-township chief gets 3 years in prison
Group-home death ruled accidental
Minister's request for new trial denied
Newspaper boxes to be 'corralled'
Psychiatric exam ordered for suspect
Rally urges peaceful solution in Yugoslavia
Tablets not supportive of religion, board says