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1/13/1997

County to sue Globe o

by Pam Regensberg and Morris Dinges
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Boulder County Commissioners today took steps to sue the Globe magazine, which published crime-scene photographs from the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation.

Boulder County spokeswoman Jana Petersen confirmed the lawsuit would be filed this afternoon.

Jana Mendez and Ron Stewart met this morning to pass the resolution in an effort to stop further publication of information that officials say will hamper the investigation. The lawsuit was expected to be filed this afternoon in Boulder District Court.

Attorney Tom Kelley, a Denver-based media lawyer, is representing the Globe.

Meanwhile, the decision by area supermarkets to yank the Globe from their shelves because of the photographs comes dangerously close to trampling on the First Amendment, officials with the Globe said today.

The pictures appearing in the supermarket tabloid Globe show a garrote -- a cord-wrapped stick that some reports say was used to strangle JonBenet -- and, in a close-up of the child's hand, a rope mark on one of her wrists.

``We're only publishing photos that illustrate information that already has been widely disseminated,'' said Tony/j

Frost, editor of the Boca Raton, Fla.-based weekly. ``There is a First Amendment issue here that could be perceived to be tantamount to censorship.''

In addition, JonBenet's parents, John and Patricia Ramsey , are threatening to sue over the photographs. Several Denver-area newspapers and TV stations said they will not run or air the photos.

Officials with King Soopers grocery chain, however, said the Globe will not be sold in any of its 69 stores in Colorado. Safeway also banned the most recent edition of the magazine in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and New Mexico. And 7 Eleven officials said it will send all of the magazines back to the distributor.

A citizen's group which did not identify itself has sent facsimiles to the media asking Boulder residents to boycott the magazine and the stores that sell them.

King Soopers vice president Russ Dispense said Globe distributors have been told not to deliver the issue to its Front Range locations.

``We have plenty of publications on the JonBenet Ramsey case and don't feel in anyway this is censorship,'' said Dispense. ``The only difference is this is in cooperation with authorities who say this type of evidence could hinder their investigation. It's also out of respect for the family.''

In addition, all Longmont area discount stores have refused to sell the recent issue of Globe that was expected to be on the newsstands today. Convenient stores have also joined the ban.

A University of Colorado associate professor said she sees the situation as a ``business decision.''

``It's not a First Amendment issue simply because they are not media outlets,'' CU professor Meg Moritz said about the discount and grocery stores.

It may be as simple as the store officials assuming what their customers want. It's a matter of ``community standards'' and the stores wanting to maintain good customer relations.

As for the Globe publishing the photos, Moritz said readers would likely not gain any new insight into the murder of the 6-year-old beauty queen.

``In what sense do they advance the story journalistically,'' she questioned.

The photos are nothing more than the images of what local newspapers have reported. ``Legitimate'' media outlets have reported that the child was strangled with a cord and a rope or cord was also tied around her wrist.

Mortiz said people tend to retain images more than they would words.

``Her image is brandished in the public's mind,'' Moritz said about pageant photos that have been widely circulated. ``That is disturbing enough.''

Meanwhile, the Boulder County Sheriff's Department has launched an investigation into how the photos were leaked to the tabloid.

``The sheriff's office investigation is looking at sources both inside and outside of the coroner's office,'' Sheriff George Epp said in a prepared statement.

Three deputies have been assigned to the inquiry. County attorneys have also tried to recover the photos from the Globe.

Longmont resident Anne Boettcher said this morning she wouldn't buy a copy of the Globe, but felt the stores not carrying this week's issue are censoring the publication.

``I think the stores are just playing to the audience. If they think it's wrong then they shouldn't stock it ever,'' Boettcher said. ``They see it as being politically correct and that's not a good reason if they have sold it in the past.''

Bob Baldwin said the pictures do pique his curiosity and stores are free to sell or not sell whatever they want.

``If the stores don't want to stock this issue that is their choice,'' Baldwin said. ``It is no different than stocking a quart of milk or a loaf of bread.''

As the murder investigation of JonBenet enters its 19th day, Boulder police are still saying they do not have any suspects. JonBenet's father, 53-year-old John Ramsey found his little girl Dec. 26 in a basement room about eight hours after her mother, Patricia ``Patsy'' Ramsey , found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for the safe return of their daughter.