Paper theft report by Record gets no response from prosecutors

Marilyn Tennissen Aug. 21, 2008, 4:56am

After a jury found that DuPont was not responsible for his client's mesothelioma, plaintiff's attorney Glen Morgan alleged the jurors may have been influenced by the Southeast Texas Record's coverage and demanded a new trial.

However, while Morgan claimed the publication was getting into jurors' hands during the course of the DuPont trial, the Record discovered that its papers were being stolen from the rack outside the Jefferson County Courthouse.

The Record reported the theft of papers to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office in May, but the DA has not taken any action on the case during the past three months.

While covering the DuPont trial, a man named Jerry Little was observed taking at least 100 copies of the Southeast Texas Record from the rack, and over a six week period thousands of the papers were missing.

The trial involved the chemical company and the family of a former employee, Willis Whisnant. The family alleged that Whisnant died from exposure to asbestos at the DuPont facility in Beaumont.

The paper published several articles and editorials each week during the duration of the trial. During that time, Record employees noticed its news rack was regularly being emptied as soon as it was filled each Monday.

The Record learned that Little is an employee of Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, the Beaumont law firm of Glen Morgan.

Although the first copy of the Record is available for free, additional copies are $1 each, making the theft of hundreds of copies over six weeks a loss of thousands of dollars to the Record.

The Record submitted an affidavit to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office in May, requesting prosecution against Little for theft.

"The Record is distributed free of charge, but is not a free publication," the affidavit states. "It takes a substantial sum every week to compile the information and to publish and distribute the newspaper. Most costs are paid by advertisements placed by merchants and other commercial interests. Our advertisers advertise with us in order to reach our readers; stealing the papers prevents their ads from being read.

"Mr. Little's actions constitute the crime of theft, and The Record is prepared to participate fully in Mr. Little's prosecution."

Since submitting the affidavit,there has been no follow up or action taken by the DA's office.

Legal counsel for the Record also wrote a letter to Morgan, advising the attorney that the Record was aware of Little's actions and his employment as a legal assistant at Reaud, Morgan & Quinn.

A brief memo was received from one of Morgan's associates, simply acknowledging receipt of the letter from the Record's legal counsel.

Morgan was able to convince Judge Donald Floyd to grant a new trial for Whisnant's case against DuPont, which is scheduled for February 2009.

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