VIDEO VAULT: When Oscar Goodman looked to put journalists on the stand

Attorney Oscar Goodman.jpg

Confidential information leaked to reporters. The federal justice system at the center of drama.

Those sentences could describe some of today’s news stories, but the Video Vault is heading back some three-and-a-half decades and keeping close to home with the time a prominent local attorney was calling journalists on the carpet. News 3's Holly Echols reported the story at the time.

"Local television and newspaper reporters subpoenaed to appear in federal court by reputed mobster Anthony Spilotro's attorney, appeared frustrated and vowed not to reveal confidential sources if made to testify," she began.

<="" sd-embed="">

Spilotro was the Chicago mob's enforcer in Las Vegas, keeping a watch over the casino skim. His attorney was the flamboyant future mayor, Oscar Goodman.

"I would say that I'm getting a little tired of those subpoenas, and I think it does make us wonder, are we getting into things that..." Channel 3 veteran reporter Andrea Boggs trailed off in frustration. "Things are just getting out of hand."

"No newsman who was subpoenaed today is going to divulge their sources," chimed in Las Vegas Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun. "There's no way they're going to find out what the sources were."

Those two, Review-Journal investigative reporter Jane-Ann Morrison and more paced the halls of the Foley Federal Building.

"It was the journalistic oath of protecting confidential sources which is upheld by the Nevada State Shield Law, that attorneys argued for," reported Echols.

"Well, I think that any court-ordered infringement on the freedom of a newsperson or journalist to protect a confidential source has a chain reaction that they call a chilling effect," said high-powered attorney Morton Galane on behalf of the news outlets.

"But it was Oscar Goodman's position to protect his client, Mr. Spilotro, by any means," continued Echols. "If he could prove the special federal grand jury was prejudiced by news reports constructed with so-called leaked information, he would."

"I'm very supportive in America--and I think this has to be said--of the media having access to all information to disseminate it to the public," offered Goodman. "I'm trying to get the federal government to tell the truth. And I think the reporters are a lever to make them tell the truth."

"Judge Harry Claiborne took the matter under advisement," concluded Echols. "He's expected to issue a written statement before week's end."

When Claiborne decided a few days later, it was in favor of the journalists, none of whom had to reveal confidential sources to the court. He ruled Goodman had not produced sufficient evidence to suggest improper communication between the FBI and reporters.

Spilotro was murdered by members of his hometown Chicago crime syndicate in 1986, with his body discovered in a shallow grave in an Indiana corn field.

After spending two more decades as a high-powered criminal attorney, Goodman went into politics and became mayor of Las Vegas for three terms.

Today, he presides over "Oscar's Steakhouse" in the Plaza Hotel downtown.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off