Subpoena Attorneys Over Possible ‘Gag’ Violation
Friday, June 4th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Jun. 4 — Newsman William Farr admitted in court yesterday that “one or more attorneys” in the Tate-LaBianca trial were his sources of information for a controversial story which reported that the Manson family had planned to kill a number of Hollywood celebrities.
Farr, formerly a staff writer for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, appeared for a contempt hearing before Superior Court Judge Charles Older, who presided over the marathon Tate-LaBianca trial.
Judge Older wants to determine whether any attorneys in the trial had violated his “gag” order restricting public comments on the case.
Judge Older ordered subpoenas drawn up for six prosecuting and defense attorneys requiring them to appear at a special hearing where the judge will question each as to whether they gave the story to Farr.
Farr 36, originally had refused to reveal his sources of information, citing a stale law which permits a newsman to protect his confidential sources.
Farr, who now is the press secretary to Dist. Atty. Joseph Busch backed down somewhat by telling the judge that it was “one or more of the attorneys” in the case.
However, Farr refused to name the attorney or attorneys. Judge Older vacated a contempt citation for Farr.
To be subpoenaed for the special hearing were Dist. Attys. Vincent T. Bugliosi, Donald A. Musich, and Stephen Kay, along with defense attorneys Irving Kanarek, Daye Shinn and Paul Fitzgerald.
No date was immediately set for the hearing.
Farr’s article appeared in the Herald-Examiner in March during the Tate-LaBianca trial. It claimed that Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and other top-name Hollywood personalities had been targeted for assassination by Charles Manson and his followers.
The front-page story said that codefendant Susan Atkins had revealed the plans to a jail cellmate.
Judge Older said he was concerned because of the possibility that an attorney in the case violated the “gag” order by giving the story to Farr, who at the time was assigned to cover the Tate-LaBianca trial.
No action was taken against Farr at the time the story appeared. But later, when he left the newspaper to join the district attorney’s staff, Judge Older demanded to know the source for the story.
The judge said that since Farr no longer is a press reporter, the immunity provision regarding news sources ceased to apply to him.
Yesterday Farr appeared with his attorney, Grant Cooper who suggested that rather than put Farr on the spot, the judge could call in the attorneys and question them.
“They can claim the Fifth Amendment or tell the truth,” Cooper said.