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KUTV reporter in contempt

Published October 18, 2007 2:26 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A state judge on Wednesday found KUTV reporter Katie Baker in contempt of court for violating his decorum order by interviewing a jury candidate in the Warren Jeffs rape trial last month.

Baker interviewed the woman in a live broadcast during jury selection, violating 5th District Judge James Shumate's order for journalists to keep away from jurors until after the verdict.

Shumate put the ruling on hold for 90 days and gave Baker a chance to wipe the slate clean by producing a story on a cause "that needs some attention," said state courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.

The story does not need to air on TV or appear on the station's Web site, but Baker must deliver it to the judge on a DVD, Volmer said.

That worries the station's news director, Tanya Vea. "It's troubling to me, frankly," Vea said of the ruling. "It definitely walks the line of where our ethical lines are."

Vea said Baker had not read Shumate's amended decorum rules when she interviewed the potential juror. She acknowledged the station erred by broadcasting the interview.

But, Vea said, Baker apologized to Volmer personally and explained it was an honest mistake.

Vea said she thought the issue had passed until Shumate ordered Baker to show up in his courtroom and explain herself.

If Baker fails to meet Shumate's conditions, she could face a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Vea said the station is seeking clarification on Shumate's order and would not say whether Baker will comply with the judge's ruling.

rrizzo@sltrib.com