Newspapers like truth, but lawyer Joseph M. Alioto believes that the Hearst Co. retaliates against witnesses who speak it. This comes in the nervy antitrust case that Alioto filed, challenging the Hearst handover of the low-circulation San Francisco Examiner (with a $66 million sweetener) to a local publisher connected to the mayor, Willie Brown. Pushing the case on behalf of a spurned buyer of the paper, Alioto, a solo practitioner and son of a former mayor, called Examiner editor/publisher Timothy White to the stand, where he testified that he suggested to Brown that favorable coverage might ensue if city lawyers let the deal go through. Whoo. White recanted within hours, and Brown backed him up, saying that White got snookered by the questioning: “It’s what we good lawyers do.” But Hearst suspended White the next morning. (Guess they weren’t impressed by the lawyering.) Alioto argues that this was a warning to future witnesses who work at Hearst — tell the truth in open court, and off with your head. He adds that Hearst had the editor’s testimony going back to last October. (Guess we shouldn’t be impressed with his lawyering.) Hearst lawyer Gary Halling, of Los Angeles’ Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, argued to The Recorder (an affiliate of The National Law Journal) that White’s testimony was irrelevant to the case and thus his subsequent suspension was just “a sideshow.” He let two days go by without calling the editor back to the stand to recant there. Alioto asked the judge to issue a restraining order preventing Hearst from firing anybody else — including, presumably, Halling. The judge, unimpressed with the whole circus, declined and warned everybody to behave already.

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