Lawyer Accuses Police of Leaking Smart Information to Reporters

Lawyer Accuses Police of Leaking Smart Information to Reporters


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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A lawyer accused members of the Salt Lake City police and the FBI Friday of leaking information and rumors about the Elizabeth Smart investigation to two reporters who were fired for working with the National Enquirer.

Attorney Randy Dryer, who is representing the Smart family, said police, FBI agents and officials with the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Secret Service wrongly gave information about the case to two reporters for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Lawyer Accuses Police of Leaking Smart Information to Reporters

Reporters Michael Vigh and Kevin Cantera were fired Tuesday for lying about their work for the tabloid, whose story last July headlined "Utah Cops: Secret Diary Exposes Family Sex Ring" has since been retracted. Vigh and Cantera were paid $10,000 each for helping the tabloid. The Enquirer has settled with the Smart family and has apologized for the false information.

Dryer said Friday that Vigh and Cantera, to avoid litigation from the Smart family, identified the sources of their information that fed the National Enquirer and other stories about the case that were published in the Tribune.

Dryer refused to identify the names of those accused of leaking private information in the case, saying, "Clearly this is explosive information that could have detrimental impacts on people's jobs and their careers."

Dryer, hired by the Smarts to find the source of the leaks, sent his findings to state and federal prosecutors. He said the offenders may have broken state and federal statutes prohibiting unauthorized leaks by law enforcers.

The Utah U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement that Dryer's findings would be "carefully reviewed by the appropriate agencies."

Lawyer Accuses Police of Leaking Smart Information to Reporters

The Smart family, in a statement, said they "hold no personal animosity toward those who have acted in less than honorable ways. We again express our sincere gratitude to all those who worked so hard and with great compassion and integrity. The poor actions of a few should not spoil the good work of so many."

Meanwhile, Mayor Rocky Anderson has ordered Police Chief Rick Dinse to identify and discipline any department personnel who leaked information -- true or false -- about the Smart investigation.

A memo from the mayor written Tuesday gives Dinse until May 12 to provide a written account of what Dinse has done "to determine if any information, theory, speculation, rumor, or gossip" about the case had been disclosed without the chief's explicit permission.

The mayor further ordered that by May 19, Dinse must investigate and discipline anyone in the department who said anything not specifically permitted to a reporter from the Enquirer or Cantera and Vigh.

The tabloid claims Cantera in a taped phone conversation vouched for the accuracy of the information that was published by the Enquirer, some of which he said he got from law enforcement sources. Dryer said at least one of the major details was "embellished" by Cantera.

In a column Sunday, Tribune editor James E. Shelledy wrote that after the reporters told him of their work with the tabloid, they offered their resignations but that Shelledy refused them and instead put them on a year's probation.

Tuesday, Shelledy fired Vigh and Cantera, saying the reporters failed to initially explain the extent of their work on the tabloid's story.

Thursday, Shelledy resigned in the face of the scandal, which owner-publisher Dean Singleton said has done serious damage to the Tribune's credibility.

In the mayor's 19-page memo, released to journalists on Thursday, Anderson also told Dinse to find out whether any police personnel received payment or anything else of value from reporters or newspapers, or whether they had disclosed privileged information to other members of the public, including their families.

Anderson has sent Dinse other memos during the course of the Smart investigation addressing departmental leaks and questioning the direction of their investigation. The new memo notes Dinse hasn't responded to any of them.

The mayor demanded to know what was done to locate a suspect known to the Smart family as Emmanuel, later identified as Brian David Mitchell, the homeless drifter who with his wife has been charged with Elizabeth's kidnapping.

Anderson asked Dinse to explain why police told the family not to go public with a sketch or information about Emmanuel/Mitchell, whose identity wasn't disclosed until the end of February.

Information about the homeless drifter first surfaced publicly Dec. 23, when John Walsh appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" show and said that a future "America's Most Wanted" would profile a roofer Walsh said was "a young homeless guy who lived at a homeless shelter" who may have used an alias when he worked for the Smarts.

At the time, Salt Lake City Police Capt. Scott Atkinson said though police were looking for the man, he wasn't even near the top of their list of potential suspects.

"We've known about this guy. We would like to talk to him to clear up that lead. He was only at the house one time several months before the incident happened," Atkinson said then.

The Smart family on Feb. 3 circulated a sketch of the man. Mitchell's sister contacted law enforcement after she saw the sketch. On Feb. 15, Walsh displayed the sketch on his show and Web site. One of Mitchell's stepsons who saw the show then gave police photographs of the suspect.

Elizabeth was found March 12 walking down the street of a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. They are being held in Salt Lake County jail. Their trials are expected in the fall.

Anderson's memo also criticized police focus on Richard Ricci, whom they called a "top potential suspect," even after 10-year-old Mary Katherine Smart, Elizabeth's younger sister and sole witness to the abduction, told them last summer she didn't believe Ricci did it.

Ricci died in August of a cerebral hemorrhage while in prison on a parole violation.

The younger girl in mid-October told her parents she thought it was Emmanuel who stole her then-14-year-old sister from their shared bed in the early hours of June 5.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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