Paul Berger's Response to Sam Kellner's Attorney

By Paul Berger (The Jewish Daily Forward)
November 24, 2013

Setting aside the hyperbole and mischaracterizations deployed liberally throughout Mr. MacGiollabhui’s letter, I would like to correct one of his primary assertions and also to answer his questions.

My article did not, as Mr. MacGiollabhui implied, attempt to find evidence that “Sam Kellner attempted to extort the Lebovits family.” Instead, I showed how Kellner’s involvement in the Lebovits prosecution went way beyond the actions of a wounded father looking for justice for his abused son. Readers can judge whether the evidence I marshaled in this respect was compelling.

Mr. MacGiollabhui asks at the end of his letter why he was not given several recordings referenced in the story. As I explained to Mr. MacGiollabhui during my reporting, I could not release the recordings to him because of commitments I made to the sources who provided them.

Mr. MacGiollabhui’s assertion that I claim in my article that Mr. MacGiollabhui would not comment upon one of the tapes “except in response to hearing the whole tape, is wholly dishonest” — is itself dishonest. Instead, in the article, I state that Mr. MacGiollabhui said he “preferred to respond after hearing the tape in full.” This is correct.

My agreement with a confidential source permitted me to use only excerpts of the tape with Mr. Kellner’s voice. I did send short audio and text excerpts to Mr. MacGiollabhui on November 6. When these proved insufficient, I offered to try to get further excerpts, as Mr. MacGiollabhui correctly points out.

However, Mr. MacGiollabhui omits that shortly after our conversation, the content of my November 6 email, which Mr. MacGiollabhui told me he shared only with his client, appeared on the website of an anonymous blogger — and cheerleader for Kellner — under the headline: “Which Lazy Journalist Will Take the Dershowitz Bait?” This attempt to preempt my story before it had been published destroyed my confidence that anything further I sent to Mr. MacGiollabhui for his client would not be publicized elsewhere before my story was published.

Mr. MacGiollabhui assured me that he, personally, was not responsible for information being disseminated to others. But, as he told me, “Sam is entirely free to discuss your questions with whomsoever he chooses” and “Sam, unfortunately, likes to talk.” At this point, it seemed clear that sending a couple more brief excerpts — like the two posted to the Forward’s website — would elicit no different response than Mr. MacGiollabhui’s initial response: which was to undermine the tapes by claiming they could have been doctored, illegally recorded or some mixture of the two. The recordings have not been “grossly misrepresented.” As indicated in the article, we verified the authenticity of the tape before publication.

I stand by the reporting in my story.