Dave Wedge

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David M. Wedge (born July 31, 1970 in Brockton, Massachusetts), is an author, journalist, communications strategist and award-winning former reporter for the Boston Herald.

Career and personal life[edit]

Wedge joined the Boston Herald in 1999 and covered such national news stories as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, 1999 Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire, 2000 Wakefield massacre, the September 11 attacks [10], and The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island in 2003 [11]. He also covered many local, state and national political stories, including the 2004 and 2008 presidential races.

His book, titled Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy and co-written with author Casey Sherman, is being released in January 2015 by University Press of New England. The non-fiction book, about the marathon bombings, is being developed into a feature film by the producers and writers behind the Academy Award-winning film, The Fighter and The Finest Hours. [12] The 20th Century Fox film is being co-produced with Hutch Parker (The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past). Director Daniel Espinosa, who directed Safe House with Denzel Washington, is also attached to the project. [13]

He also writes for Esquire,[1] DigBoston[2] and SocietePerrier.com[3] and has written for Boston[4] and Revolver,[5] among other publications and websites.

Wedge is a frequent TV and radio commentator who has appeared on CNN,[6] Fox News [14], CBS Early Show [15], ABC's Good Morning America,[7] WEEI Sports Radio in Boston [16] and several other local and national stations. He was a regular contributor on The Emily Rooney Show on WGBH-FM in Boston [8] and hosted a show on DigRadio.

In 2005, Wedge and the Herald lost a jury verdict in a libel case filed by Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy. The verdict was appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court but the SJC upheld the verdict in a ruling on May 7, 2007. The Herald and Wedge maintained the stories were accurate and that the court rulings were flawed.

Wedge is married to Herald columnist Jessica Heslam.

Murphy v. Boston Herald, Inc., et al.[edit]

The libel case brought by Judge Murphy, against the Boston Herald and Wedge centers on a series of articles about Judge Murphy that were published by the Herald.

Also named in the suit were Herald reporters and columnists Jules Crittenden, Margery Eagan and David Weber. According to official court documents, “at the close of the evidence, the trial judge entered judgment in favor of Eagan and Weber pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 50 (a), 365 Mass. 814 (1974). The jury returned their special verdict finding Crittenden not liable. None of the three is involved in this appeal.”[9]

The Boston Herald published the first articles about Judge Murphy on February 13, 2002 in a front-page story that used the headline “Murphy’s Law; Lenient judge frees dangerous criminals.”[10] The article, written by Wedge and Crittenden, depicted Judge Murphy as “callously indifferent to victims” and quoted unnamed courthouse sources that claimed Judge Murphy had said about a rape victim: “‘She’s 14. She got raped. Tell her to get over it.’”[11]

Judge Murphy denied ever making the alleged rape comment but after the Herald published the stories he was "bombarded with hate mail, death threats and calls for his removal from the bench." Someone in a Boston Herald internet chatroom even said that Murphy's own daughters "should be raped."[12]

In June 2002, Judge Murphy filed suit against Wedge and the Herald claiming that his reputation had been damaged and that he had been emotionally scarred.

On March 7, 2002, Wedge appeared on Fox News’s The O'Reilly Factor and said Judge Murphy coddled defendants and "caused headlines for making disparaging remarks to victims." Wedge's comments were cited as being "crucial" in Murphy's libel case against Wedge and the Herald.[13]

Trial[edit]

In January 2005, the case of Murphy v. Boston Herald, Inc., et al. began.

Wedge testified under oath that two sources told him about Judge Murphy’s alleged comments regarding the 14 year-old rape victim. Wedge understood, according to his testimony, that these two sources were not present when the rape comment was allegedly made by Judge Murphy. According to Wedge, he then confirmed the quote with a third source who was present when Judge Murphy allegedly made the comment about the rape victim. He "refused to concede that his front-page story on Murphy was at all flawed." [14]

The court found Wedge’s testimony in the trial to be "thoroughly and convincingly impeached by his own deposition testimony," which he gave in July and August 2002. At the deposition, "Wedge contradicted his trial testimony in every material respect." [9]

During the trial, the jury also heard testimony from Wedge's three sources, Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh, Jr. and Assistant District Attorneys Gerald Fitzgerald and David Crowley. Fitzgerald testified that he told Wedge that Judge Murphy said "tell her to get over it." Crowley, the source who claimed to be present when Murphy made the alleged comment, testified that "the gist of the quotes in what was said appear to be accurate," but that he did not remember Judge Murphy using the words "tell her."[15] Walsh said Crowley told him about Murphy's remarks in the lobby conference and acknowledged he did not know whether the judge said, "get over it," "she needs to get over it," or "tell her to get over it."[16]

Murphy testified that the quotes attributed to him by defense witnesses were "absolutely preposterous."

In February 2005, the jury found that the Boston Herald and David Wedge had defamed Judge Murphy and published false information about him. The jury awarded Murphy $2.09 million in compensatory damages, an award later reduced to $2.01 million.

Shortly after the verdict, in an apparent attempt at "bullying" the Herald into a settlement, Judge Murphy wrote two letters on court letterhead to Herald publisher Patrick Purcell, demanding the publisher meet with him and deliver a $3.26 million check.[17]

Appeal[edit]

The Herald appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, but on May 7, 2007 the court upheld the verdict.

In a unanimous decision "sharply critical of the newspaper and its reporter, David Wedge,"[13] the Supreme Judicial Court said "there is an abundance of evidence that, taken cumulatively, provides clear and convincing proof that the defendants either knew that the published statements found by the jury to be libelous were untrue or that they published them in reckless disregard of the probable falsity."[9]

The court found the evidence in the case supported the jury’s verdict of actual malice. The Supreme Judicial Court opinion, written by Justice John Greaney, said that "by the end of Wedge's testimony, his credibility on any material factual point at issue was in tatters."[citation needed]

Reaction and response[edit]

In the wake of the failed appeal, Boston Herald publisher Patrick Purcell released a statement saying "We are disappointed with the Supreme Judicial Court’s relentlessly one-sided view of Dave Wedge’s reporting on a public controversy within the judicial system, and are unwavering in our complete confidence in Wedge’s journalistic skills."[18] Purcell referred to the letters he received from Judge Murphy saying, Murphy "correctly predicted the Herald had ‘zero chance’ that his colleagues on the bench would side with the Herald rather than one of their own" and that "no shred of evidence exists, as Justice Greaney alleged in his opinion, that Wedge altered the quotation provided by his trusted sources."

Wedge released his own public statement in which he "vehemently" disagreed with the SJC’s decision and continued to "firmly stand by" his reporting on the stories.[citation needed]

On May 21, 2007, the Herald filed a petition requesting the court reconsider its decision, alleging that the SJC judges made several errors in their ruling, including misquoting Crowley's testimony and erroneously suggesting that Crowley said he heard Murphy make a sympathetic-sounding comment.[19] The SJC acknowledged the error, as well as others, and corrected the record but denied the Herald's motion to reconsider, ending the case in the state's courts. The Herald paid Judge Murphy $3.4 million on June 7 to cover the jury award plus interest.

On July 10, the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct charged Judge Murphy with ethical violations including "willful misconduct" for the controversial letters he sent to Purcell.[20] The CJC held a public hearing on Murphy's letters on October 15.[21]

Murphy claimed in August that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and asked Governor Deval Patrick to retire him early with a full pension, even though he hadn't earned retirement benefits. Patrick denied the request.[22] The judge also filed a $6.8 million suit against the Herald's insurance company, claiming that the libel case should have been settled.[23]

In November the CJC issued a 27-page report that found Murphy's letters to Purcell were "improper in tone and content" and recommended a public reprimand.[24] The CJC recommended a 30-day suspension, a $25,000 fine and a public censure for Murphy for the letters. In August 2008, Judge Murphy and the CJC reached an agreement that he was "permanently disabled" and he stepped down from the bench.[25]

In September 2012, the SJC ruled that Murphy was not entitled to a disability pension. [17]

Post-trial[edit]

In 2008, Wedge was part of a team of reporters who won a New England Press Association award in the "Right to Know" category for a series on public officials' salaries. [26] The same series was also awarded first place in the "Right to Know" category by the New England Associated Press News Executive Association in September 2008.[27]

In 2013, Wedge and Casey Sherman signed a deal to write a book about the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon terror attacks for University Press of New England. [18] In 2014, he joined Northwind Strategies, a Boston-based communications and political strategy firm, as a vice-president. [19]

In April 2014, the staff of the Boston Herald, including Wedge, was honored with the Sigma Delta Chi award by the Society of Professional Journalists for the paper's coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. [20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ [5]
  6. ^ [6]
  7. ^ [7]
  8. ^ [8]
  9. ^ a b c Ernest B. Murphy vs. Boston Herald, Inc., & another.[dead link]
  10. ^ Dave Wedge, "Murphy's Law; Lenient judge frees dangerous criminals," Boston Herald, February 13, 2002.
  11. ^ Adam Reilly, "Judge Dread: The SJC’s libel ruling won’t cripple the media — but it could seriously hurt the Herald," Boston Phoenix, May 9, 2007.
  12. ^ Ken Maguire, "Judge's Libel Suit Against Boston Herald Begins," Law.com, January 24, 2005.
  13. ^ a b Pam Belluck, "Judge's Libel Victory Against Paper Is Upheld," New York Times, May 8, 2007.
  14. ^ [9].[dead link]
  15. ^ Greg Gatlin, "Herald source heard second-hand comment," Boston Herald, February 10, 2005.
  16. ^ Mark Jurkowitz, "Witness testifies about Herald quotes," Boston Globe, February 9, 2005.
  17. ^ Ralph Ranalli, "Herald fights $2m libel verdict; Says judge wrote 'bullying' letters," Boston Globe, December 21, 2005.
  18. ^ Jesse Noyes, "SJC upholds judge's libel case vs. Herald," Boston Herald, May 8, 2007.
  19. ^ "Boston Herald asks SJC to reconsider libel ruling," WHDH-TV, May 21, 2007.
  20. ^ Raja Mishra, "Judge who won libel lawsuit faces ethics charges; Commission says he tried to bully Herald," Boston Globe, July 11, 2007.
  21. ^ Jessica Van Sack and Joe Dwinell, "CJC public hearing set on Judge Murphy misconduct charges," Boston Herald, October 5, 2007.
  22. ^ Frank Phillips, "Judge in Herald case asks early retirement; Patrick rejects claims of stress," Boston Globe, August 2, 2007.
  23. ^ Shelley Murphy, "Judge seeks $6.8 million from Herald's insurer; Cites failure to settle defamation case," Boston Globe, August 18, 2007.
  24. ^ Andrew Ryan, "Report urges public reprimand for judge; Says two letters to newspaper were improper," Boston Globe, November 22, 2007.
  25. ^ Shelley Murphy, "Judge Murphy agrees to leave the bench," Boston Globe, August 20, 2008.
  26. ^ "Herald takes home seven NEPA awards," Boston Herald, February 12, 2008.
  27. ^ "Herald shares top honors for 'Right to Know' report," Boston Herald, September 21, 2008.