So after spending about 20 hours this week collecting court documentation, off and on the record comments, contacting family members, friends, attorney’s and police I was shocked this morning to discover the Daily Star had the article in their newspaper first.
The alleged murderer of William Lee, Richard Babcock, was indicted Wednesday and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it was going to happen before it did, and that I wasn’t aware that it had. The problem is that the court sealed the indictment which means no one can discuss the case until the court unseals it.
I can’t explain the pain of writing a grand jury story the following day over grand larceny and possession charges knowing there was a sealed murder indictment I couldn’t mention.
This morning I was horrified, thinking that I some how screwed up and missed some public access web page tangled somewhere in the state police’s site. Quickly that feeling faded however and was replaced by a getting screwed feeling instead.
In preparing to have the defendant appear in court for the case the New York State Police prepared a document that including the original charges they had intended on arresting Babcock for and forwarded it the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office via their computer system.
Babcock was not arrested by the State Police as was reported. The reason the case was sealed was specifically because he had not been notified or arrested prior to his court appearance Friday morning when the judge delivered the document to his public defender.
So how did the competitor beat us to the punch? Incompetence. Not theirs obviously. Apparently a trooper in the local Oneonta barracks made an human error. He found the document sent to the sheriff’s office on the computer and thought it was a public police blotter to be released. He then handed it over to the Star.
I don’t blame them of course I would’ve run the story in a heartbeat. I can blame the New York State Police though for unofficially unsealing a grand jury indictment before the supreme court did.
It was a single error by a single individual and his commanding officer promptly called our office this morning to offer an explanation and an apology after we sent him an e-mail of complaint over the issue.
Still, it’s hard not to feel bitter, especially since we contacted the state police the same day the Star did but was told there was no information, a credit to the personnel at the Sidney barracks I suppose. But burning bridges in this trade only leaves you stranded and besides it’s professionally petty, so I’m over it.
A lengthy article appears in the Evening Sun today that bear most of the fruits from my week’s labors, hopefully it will still satisfy our readers palette with lots of juicy details even through for some it won’t be their first taste.