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2 reporters get jail time for not naming sources

ATLANTA -- A federal judge Thursday ordered two reporters for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to be jailed for failing to reveal who told them that Richard Jewell, a part-time security guard, was a leading suspect in the bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

The newspaper immediately filed an appeal blocking the jail sentences.The two reporters, Kathy Scruggs and Ron Martz, based their reporting in July 1996 on confidential sources. The Journal-Constitution identified Jewell as the focus of a federal investigation into the bombing and wrote that he "fits the profile of a lone bomber."

The explosion on July 27, 1996, injured 111 people and killed two. Jewell, who was never charged with a crime, is suing the newspaper, its owners and the reporters for libel.

In December 1998 and again this year, the reporters were directed by U.S. District Judge John R. Mather to reveal their sources. Both times they refused.

It is not clear how long it will take for the appeal by The Journal-Constitution to be processed.

Because the case involves libel, Jewell's lawyer, L. Lin Wood, is required to prove that the newspaper knowingly printed false stories about Jewell that were negligent or malicious.

Wood has argued that because he cannot identify the reporters' sources, his case is unfairly hampered. He said he was confident that the reporters would eventually serve a jail sentence.