- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A judge has ruled that two New Orleans journalists must testify about a 2012 meeting they had with federal agents and a subsequent newspaper article about convicted killer Telly Hankton.

The Oct. 13, 2012, story published by The Times-Picayune and Nola.com said investigators were poised to charge Hankton in a racketeering case. It was published days before a grand jury handed up indictments of Hankton and others.

Attorneys for the defendants want those indictments thrown out, arguing that grand jury secrecy was violated. They subpoenaed former Times-Picayune-Nola.Com reporters Gordon Russell and John Simerman.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman on Wednesday rejected requests by the newspaper and the government to block the subpoenas of Russell and Simerman. He also refused a government request to block testimony by three federal agents.

“Because defendants seek to prove that the agents violated grand jury secrecy during their October 10th meeting with the newspaper reporters, testimony from both the agents and the reporters would be relevant, material, and useful to an adequate defense,” Feldman wrote.

Feldman did agree to limit the scope of the testimony. The defendants had been seeking testimony about other cases investigated by the FBI and about other stories by other reporters. Feldman said the testimony would be limited to information about the Oct. 10, 2012, meeting and the subsequent story about Hankton.

Loretta Mince, an attorney for the reporters, stressed that point when asked to comment on Wednesday’s ruling.

“The judge expressly recognized that there are First Amendment issues implicated here,” she said.

A decision on whether to appeal was pending, she said.

No date has been set for the testimony. A Thursday hearing was postponed because of a witness’ illness.

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