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Reporter is penalized on contempt charge

ST. GEORGE — A Salt Lake television news reporter was found in contempt of court today for violating a decorum order issued in the Warren Jeffs rape trial.

KUTV reporter Katie Baker appeared in 5th District Court on Wednesday before Judge James L. Shumate to discuss the contempt charge that was filed against her on Sept. 25.

Shumate ordered Baker to produce a community service story to appear on KUTV's Web site and to provide him with a copy of it within 90 days. Once the judge receives evidence that Baker has complied with his order, the contempt charge would be dismissed, said Baker's attorney, Jeff Hunt.

Baker was accused of violating the court's decorum order that governed media coverage of the high-profile case that attracted worldwide attention. Jeffs, 51, the leader of a polygamist sect, was convicted Sept. 25 on two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 20.

Reporters were issued credentials to cover the jury selection process, which began on Sept. 7 and concluded on Sept. 11 when a panel of 12 jurors was seated.

The decorum order, which Shumate amended three times during the course of the trial, barred reporters from disclosing anything that would identify a juror or potential juror until Jeffs' trial was over.

In an affidavit filed Monday, Baker admitted that she reviewed the decorum order prior to covering the trial but could not recall reading anything that prohibited her from interviewing prospective jurors.

Baker said she was standing outside the courthouse on Sept. 10 and noticed several prospective jurors leaving the building. One woman expressed her strong dislike for Jeffs to Baker, which led Baker to believe the woman would not be selected for the jury and could then be interviewed for a story.

Baker's interview with the woman was filmed and aired three times that evening on KUTV and posted on the station's Web site. The next morning, Baker said the court's public information officer called her editor to express a concern over the interview.

Shumate said he was troubled by the neglect Baker showed in not reading the decorum order more thoroughly.