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KUTV reporter facing contempt charge

ST. GEORGE — A Salt Lake City television news reporter is facing a contempt charge in 5th District Court for violation of the court's decorum order in the Warren Jeffs' rape trial.

Judge James Shumate ordered KUTV reporter Katie Baker to appear in court today to show cause why she should not be held in contempt and possibly be fined with a jail sentence for violating the court's order.

The decorum order barred reporters covering the Jeffs' trial from disclosing anything that would identify a juror or potential juror until the trial was over.

In an affidavit filed Monday, Baker said she read the decorum order prior to covering the trial, but could not remember anything in the order that governed contact or interviews with prospective jurors.

On or about Sept. 10, Baker said she was standing outside the courthouse and noticed several prospective jurors leaving the building.

One woman expressed a strong dislike for Jeffs, which Baker said led her to believe she would not be selected for the jury and could be interviewed.

The interview was aired three times that evening on KUTV, she said. The next morning, Baker said the court's public information officer called her editor to express a concern over the interview. Baker said she apologized, removed the story from the station's Web site, and sought to personally apologize to the court.

Baker's attorney, Jeff Hunt, argues that she made an "honest mistake" and should not be held in contempt.

"While the court's contempt power is vital to protect the authority of the court and punish those who willfully disobey it, those interests are not implicated by Ms. Baker's actions in this case," wrote Hunt in court documents. "Ms. Baker made an honest mistake. She apologized for it at the time, and took steps to ensure that it would not happen again."

Jeffs was convicted Sept. 25 on two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice. He faces a sentence of from five years to life on each charge. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 20.


E-mail: nperkins@desnews.com