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Writer Need Not Reveal Sources In Wenatchee Sex-Ring Cases

Tue., April 2, 1996, midnight

A writer who criticized the investigation and prosecution of the so-called Wenatchee sex-ring cases cannot be forced to reveal her sources or methods, a judge ruled Monday.

Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee disagreed with the assertion of a lawyer seeking the information that Kathryn Lyon was acting as an “attorney-advocate” when she investigated and wrote a report about the controversial investigation.

McPhee, however, made one exception to his ruling. He said Lyon must turn over a tape of an interview with Scharl Ann Filbeck of Wenatchee because Lyon already had given the tape to others who were critical of the Wenatchee police and thus had forfeited confidentiality.

Lyon said later the exception was harmless because the tape already is “part of the public record.”

Lyon went to court to resist a subpoena sought by lawyer Pat McMahon, who is representing Wenatchee police Detective Bob Perez in a lawsuit filed in August in Chelan Count Superior Court.

Perez - lead investigator in the sex-ring case in which dozens were prosecuted - and the state Department of Social and Health Services are being sued by three Child Protective Service workers who contend they were fired because they questioned authorities’ handling of the case.

Authorities alleged that since 1988 as many as 50 children were forced to have sex - sometimes alone, sometimes in groups - with adult participants in two loosely organized Wenatchee-area sex rings.

Twenty-eight adults have been charged since late 1994. Nineteen defendants have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Three people were acquitted and charges against five others were dismissed. One case is pending.

In arguments before McPhee, McMahon asserted that Lyon, a lawyer by trade, has “crossed the line” and become an advocate for critics of Wenatchee and state officials.

As such, he said, she had surrendered any journalist’s shield against divulging her sources or being compelled to testify about what she knew.

In an earlier interview, McMahon said he wanted Lyon’s data so he could sort out discrepancies between what Lyon’s sources told her and what they say in depositions conducted for the lawsuit.

Lyon’s lawyer, Thomas Nast, told McPhee that his client had taken an unpaid leave from her job as a Tacoma public defender to follow and eventually write a book about the case. He noted that she investigated and wrote her findings in a widely disseminated document, “The Wenatchee Report.”

Nast said Lyon, acting as a journalist, had guaranteed her sources that their names would remain confidential.

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