James Scarola appears at his arraignment in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington on Sept, 23, 2013. / GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS FILE
BURLINGTON, Vt. -- The Burlington Free Press is challenging a state prosecutor's decision to subpoena correspondence the newspaper received involving an attempted murder case.
At issue are letters that James Scarola sent to two reporters this summer. Scarola, 41, of Burlington is charged with trying to kill his wife, Colleen, a year ago. He did not send the letters to people involved in his case, including his public defense lawyer.
The subpoena, issued by the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office, demands that the Free Press hand over "any and all letters, correspondence, conversations or other documentation received from James Scarola related to his ongoing criminal case."
Free Press Executive Editor Michael Townsend and Associate Editor Adam Silverman wrote in a reply letter that the subpoena was inappropriate for several reasons, including that it violates the newspaper's constitutional rights.
"The inquest statute is invalid because it infringes on the reporter's First Amendment privilege not to provide source information," Townsend and Silverman wrote. The editors asked in their letter to Judge Brian Grearson for a determination about whether the newspaper would be required to comply with the subpoena. A copy of the letter was provided to Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan.
The Burlington Free Press received notice Thursday from Vermont Superior Court in Burlington that a hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 3 to discuss the newspaper's response, which the court is treating as a motion to quash the subpoena.
Two Burlington Free Press reporters received identical, handwritten letters from Scarola over two days in late June. Scarola, referring to himself in the third person, said his "prayers have been answered" regarding his now ex-wife's "well being."
Scarola also wrote that he had been falsely charged with sexual assault in the case and criticized the media for failing to explore his wife's actions in the hours leading up to the incident at their Burlington home on Sept. 22, 2013. His wife, who now goes by her maiden name of Colleen Bray, had filed for divorce two months before police say she was attacked, but Scarola was still living at the home.
Police say Scarola struck his wife with a baseball bat after she returned home from a night of socializing with friends. Police also said Scarola called 911 following the attack and tried to clean up the crime scene.
Bray, 37, remained in a coma in critical condition at Fletcher Allen Health Care for days after the attack, but has since recovered and was discharged from the hospital. She has given the media permission to use her name.
Scarola, a self-published author of horror and science fiction books, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated domestic assault and aggravated attempted murder. He has been held without bail at Northwest State Correctional Center while awaiting a trial.
Read the original story: Newspaper fights subpoena of murder suspect's letters