Monday, April 23, 2007

Ex-Chron editor Roberts fights porn 'smear'

Former Chronicle political reporter and managing editor Jerry Roberts called a news conference yesterday to say he has been "smeared" by a Santa Barbara newspaper, where he most recently worked, which claims a computer he used contains 15,000 images of child and adult pornography.

Roberts denied downloading any porn. Moreover, his lawyer presented a report showing he has passed a lie-detector test. And, his lawyers plan to sue the paper for libel if it doesn't retract the story.

The weekly Santa Barbara Independent said on its Web site last night that the allegations are another "shameless" attempt by local tycoon Wendy McCaw to attack Roberts. McCaw owns the Santa Barbara News-Press, which hired Roberts away from the Chronicle in 2002. Last summer, Roberts and several other newsroom staffers quit over newsroom meddling by McCaw. She tried to keep out of the paper a report about an associate's DUI, and she objected when the newsroom mentioned the address of actor Rob Lowe in a routine story about a zoning change for his property.

Roberts came to the News-Press after a distinguished career at the Chronicle, where he won numerous awards. In the past year, after quitting the News-Press, he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He's also been battlling McCaw, who has filed a $500,000 demand against him. She is also suing several journalists who have criticized her. A roast of Roberts to raise money for the legal defense of those sued by McCaw was held in San Francisco in March.

McCaw is the former wife of billionaire Craig McCaw of McCaw Cellular. She divorced him in 1995 and walked away with a reported $450 million.

Yesterday's News-Press story described the newspaper's attempt to regain control of the hard drive Roberts used while employed there. Santa Barbara Police say the drive contains more than 15,000 images of child and adult pornography, according to the Santa Barbara Daily Sound.

Hours after the News-Press story was published, Roberts called a news conference in his attorney's office to categorically deny the story and point out its numerous errors.

“From the first day of this controversy at the News-Press, this story has been about ethics -- and today the shameful ethics of the News-Press and its owner are on full display for all the world to see,” Roberts said, flanked by his wife, Linda Kiefer, and attorney Dennis G. Merenbach. “Today’s front-page smear [in] regards to me is false, defamatory and malicious and published with knowledge that as to me it is completely untrue. My family and I are outraged beyond measure at this desperate attempt to ruin my reputation.”

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