Editor Refuses to Pay Narconon Court Bill
By Michael McNutt
July 4, 1992
A Newkirk newspaper editor says he'll go to jail rather than pay Narconon Chilocco's court costs for forcing him to reveal information about sources for stories on the drug-treatment center.
"I just cannot in good faith pay for this," Robert Lobsinger of The Newkirk Herald Journal said.
"If they come and get me and take me to jail, I guess that's what will happen," Lobsinger said. "But there's a principle. " District Judge Daniel Owens in Oklahoma County ordered Lobsinger on June 9 to pay $2,150.32 in attorney fees to Narconon Chilocco New Life Center.
Narconon Chilocco is fighting a state effort to close the unlicensed drug-treatment center on Indian land near Kansas.
Lobsinger and his 1,500-circulation newspaper have done extensive stories on Narconon Chilocco and its ties to the Church of Scientology.
Oklahoma County District Judge Leamon Freeman in February granted Narconon's request to take Lobsinger's deposition on his interviews with state Mental Health Board members about the center.
"The next thing I knew, I was served with a subpoena asking for three years of my phone records, all my contacts, all my correspondence, videotapes and all my notes," Lobsinger said.
"Frankly, it scared ... me. "
Marie Evans, attorney with the Oklahoma City law firm representing Narconon, said her side did not mean the subpoenas to be invasive.
"We never intended to ask for more than the production of the documents Judge Freeman outlined," Evans said.
Lobsinger cited the shield law, which protects journalists from revealing some sources, in refusing to give the deposition.
On a motion from Narconon, Owens directed the editor to give the deposition but said Narconon attorneys could ask Lobsinger only about the interviews with state Mental Health Board members.
Owens' June order directed Lobsinger to pay Narconon attorneys' costs of motions against Lobsinger and their car rental to drive to Newkirk to get the deposition.
"The time and expense involved in obtaining what turned out to be a fairly short and simple deposition was oppressive to the plaintiff and cannot be condoned by the court," Owens said in his order.
Lobsinger gave the deposition. He said the order to pay Narconon's legal costs was unfair, but he can't afford to appeal it.
Newkirk Mayor Garry Bilger said the editor won't have to pay the Narconon costs or go to jail.
Citizens intend to pay the court fees, and already have collected $1,800, Bilger said.
Oklahoma Press Association will defend Lobsinger if the editor asks for its help, OPA manager Ben Blackstock said.