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1/14/1997

Tabloid set to return

by Pam Regensberg
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Globe magazine will return a series of photos taken at the JonBenet Ramsey murder scene in order to settle a suit brought Monday, Daily Times-Call has learned.

The settlement was scheduled to be announced at a news conference this afternoon in Boulder, a source close to the case said at press time.

The source said the return of the photos is the only stipulation in the settlement.

That confirmation comes on the heels of a statement by a Globe executive this morning in which he said the case would be resolved by the end of the day.

Boulder County officials on Monday filed a suit asking that the Globe be prohibited from publishing any more photographs relating to the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey three weeks ago.

Globe Vice President and General Counsel Michael Kahane told Daily Times-Call he expected ``both the lawsuit and the (temporary restraining order) will be dropped.''

``We don't want to do anything to impede the investigation,'' Kahane said, adding that his company will not allow its First Amendment rights to be violated in the process. He said the Globe was unaware the photos were stolen.

County attorneys did not return telephone calls at press time.

Still, Globe Editor Tony Frost said he plans to run more photos in the next edition. Boulder police said the Jan. 21 publication did not hamper the investigation this time.

``We're planning a blockbuster story which will be illustrated by photos,'' Frost told The Times-Call this morning.

Frost said the Globe has at least two more photos that did not run in the Jan. 21 edition of the paper. The six photos that did appear in the paper show the 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 tied to one of her wrists.

Frost admitted that the Globe paid for the photos. He argued that the photos do not reveal any more than has already been reported in print.

Boulder County officials maintain that the tabloid obtained the pictures illegally. The sheriff's department is investigating the leak and has already conducted six polygraph tests with more pending. The person responsible for releasing the pictures could face criminal and civil charges.

Roy McCutchen, president of Photo Craft Laboratories Inc. in Boulder where the pictures were developed, said his company is cooperating in the investigation.

Suing supermarket tabloids has proven costly and difficult. Many have tried and many have lost. Carol Burnett did it and won. So did Harrison Ford and housewife-turned-millionaire Roseanne.

The Globe is still in litigation brought by O.J. Simpson houseguest Kato Kaelin. Kahane said the Globe won the first legal round and expects to win the second.

Nevertheless, it has not been easy for those who have gone up against the tabloids.

Local officials are taking a stab anyway.

Most Colorado stores and newsstands refused to sell the magazine, saying they want to be sensitive to the Ramsey family and they want to follow their customers' wishes.

And while Frost was arguing that local merchants were committing a First Amendment violation by banning the publication, the county was filing the lawsuit in Boulder District Court against his publication.

``It's just outrageous to me that these kind of photos are being used,'' said Boulder County Commissioner Ron Stewart. ``It's just inappropriate.''

Stewart said the pictures are the county's property and the county did not and would not authorize the use of the photos that are central to a criminal investigation. And unlike lawsuits involving actors who are upset that they have been libeled, the county wants to stop the tabloid from further publication of the photos pertaining to the JonBenet murder investigation.

County officials asked for a temporary restraining order Monday. County commissioners Stewart and Jana Mendez passed a resolution Monday recommending the county proceed with litigation against the Globe ``to preclude it from further publication of materials in a way that contravenes the law.''

The cost of the action to taxpayers is not known.

Barring a settlement, the matter is now in the hands of District Judge Roxanne Bailin. Bailin's clerk said the judge will likely issue a written ruling late this afternoon.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise this morning said the DA's office provided the county with ``factual information that was necessary for them to draft the complaint.''

Court documents allege that further publication of photos could result in ``irreparable harm to the law enforcement investigation.'' The county claims copyright protection for the pictures and cites another case in which it was ruled that prior restraint was justified because the photos were unlawfully obtained.

Meanwhile, Frost said, he would whip out his checkbook to pay for a copy of the ransom note.

``We would dearly like it,'' Frost said.

The Globe has two reporters and a photographer working on the story.

``We're focused on where we are going,'' he added.