Just hours before a California judge dismissed all charges against Patricia Dunn yesterday, several prominent media outlets reported that the former Hewlett-Packard chairwoman would plead guilty to the charges against her. To make matters worse, several headline qriters simplified the story and wrote as if the guilty plea had already happened. Everyone from CNN to the Associated Press to the New York Times seems to have got caught up in the confusion.
So how did the phony story get started? Apparently it was an email from the California attorney general’s office that started it all. Here’s how Rob Kelley at CNNMoney put it:
Earlier today the California attorney general’s office issued an incorrect e-mail press release stating that defendants would enter guilty pleas to the wire fraud charges.
A representative in the attorney general’s press office said the morning’s release was a mistake.
“It was just a mistake by me,” said Nathan Barankin. “Our lawyers told me that the defendants were going to court and mak[ing] a plea. I mistakenly assumed that they’d be making a plea of guilty.”
Dunn’s lawyer, Jim Brosnahan, said that the agreement to dismiss her case came Tuesday afternoon at a 45-minute meeting between defense lawyers, a representative from the attorney general’s office, and Judge Ray Cunningham.
It’s good to know that the people who work for the California attorney general’s office assume defendants are guilty–or at least making a plea of guilty–when they go to court. And when we say “good” we mean “terrifying”
Charges against HP’s Dunn dropped [CnnMoney.com]