Town Helping Publisher Pay Legal Bill
By Michael McNutt
July 12, 1992
NEWKIRK - Some residents of this northern Oklahoma town are contributing cash to help a local publisher fight what he believes is an attack on freedom of the press.
In less than two weeks, some of the town's 2,400 people have donated $5,000 to help pay legal costs incurred by the publisher of Newkirk's weekly newspaper, Mayor Gary Bilger said Friday.
Robert Lobsinger, publisher of the Newkirk Herald Journal, was ordered last month by an Oklahoma County judge to pay $2,150.32 in attorney fees to Narconon Chilocco New Life Center.
He wrote in his 1,500-circulation newspaper last month that he likely would have to go to jail because he could not afford the court fine.
"It's really amazing that the people would put their money where my mouth is," Lobsinger said of the community's fund-raising efforts.
Jack McCarty, Lobsinger's lawyer, said he sent a check for the amount of the court fine in the mail Friday to District Judge Daniel Owens.
Lobsinger has written editorials against Narconon Chilocco, a drug and alcohol treatment center that wants to operate on Indian land six miles north of Newkirk, for more than three years since finding out the organization has ties with the Church of Scientology.
Lawyers for Narconon Chilocco earlier this year sought to ask questions of Lobsinger about any conversations and correspondence he might have had with state officials on the issue of whether the facility should be licensed.
Last year, state officials refused to license and certify Narconon Chilocco. Narconon has appealed to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.
The Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services last year denied certification for Narconon Chilocco, saying its program was medically unsafe and experimental. A request from Narconon Chilocco to ask the state board for an exemption was postponed until next month.
Bilger said the fund-raising effort for Lobsinger was done by word of mouth. People could bring money to a local bank, but several handed money to the mayor or to Lobsinger.
Many of the donations ranged from $5 to $20, but there have been some larger contributions, Bilger said.
"It means that people are supportive of what's going on here in this community and at the state level," he said. "We haven't been the only ones who have been harassed by this thing. We feel very good that our community here is that supportive of the action and that appreciative of what Bob did."
Lobsinger said he was amazed by the town's generosity.
"I feel terrific that the town is willing to support me on the thing," he said. "It's really a shame we have to fight the judicial system as well as the cults. " Lobsinger initially refused to be questioned by Narconon Chilocco's lawyers, citing the shield law, which protects journalists from revealing some sources.
But on a court motion from Narconon Chilocco, Owens ordered Lobsinger to give a deposition to lawyers, limiting their questions to those about interviews with state mental health board members.
Owens' order, issued June 9, directed Lobsinger to pay Narconon Chilocco attorneys' costs of motions against Lobsinger, and their car rental to drive to Newkirk to take the deposition.