Star reporter banned?

Star reporter Jennifer Wadsworth of The Tracy Press could find herself banned from the Melissa Huckaby courtroom or at least subpoenaed as the key witness who nudged detectives into arresting the now accused killer.

This is speculation on my part, but it happened to me in a similar case. I was put on the witness list in the 2008 trial of Eric Hu, a Stockton man who chased his girlfriend into a crafts shop, fired a shotgun into the floor, led high-speed car chases and escaped from the County Jail in French Camp. I interviewed him back in jail when officers cuffed him after two months on the lam. He said he did it for love.

 

I walked into courtroom to cover the trial about a year after the interview and attorneys looked at me and then each other. They huddled at the bench with Judge George Abdallah, who had a bailiff politely boot me. My jailhouse interview amounted to taking a statement from the defendant, attorneys said. I ran to my editor, who phoned our attorney in San Francisco. Our attorney wrote a letter to Abdallah who agreed to let me back into the courtroom so I could report on the case. I never was called to testify.

Wadsworth, 22, became part of the Huckaby story in a much more direct way and scored a huge scoop when she called the Lawless mobile home where Huckaby lived with her grandparents. Huckaby answered the phone and the two started talking. The conversation turned to the black suitcase in which 8-year-old Sandra Cantu was dumped.

 

Officers booked Huckaby hours after Wadsworth’s story went online. Tracy Police spokesman Tony Sheneman credited the story for revealing Huckaby’s inconsistent statements she made to them about the suitcase. From that moment, Huckaby’s life publicly spiraled and Wadsworth’s reputation soared. The sought after Tracy Press reporter has now appeared on Dr. Phil, Larry King, Nancy Grace, Geraldo and lots of other national and local news outlets.

 

If she lands on a witness list, she could also become subject to Judge Linda Lofthus’ gag order prohibiting witnesses from speaking publicly. That’s more speculation on my part, but that would make it hard for her to do her job. Huckaby’s preliminary or grand jury hearing is a while out, but until then, I’d say Wadsworth will have to watch for a subpoena service. She might need a good lawyer.

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