SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 8, 2011

Woman to judge: Ban newspaper stories about me

PEABODY — A career con woman who last year talked her way out of a jail term yesterday talked her way into the headlines again with an unusual request.

Joanna Snyder, 47, was in Salem Superior Court with her attorney for a routine scheduling hearing in her pending drug case when she asked to speak directly to Judge Howard Whitehead.

Her request: that the judge order a Salem News reporter to stop writing about her and her cases.

Snyder complained to the judge that the stories, which include details about her long criminal history, are upsetting to her and her 19-year-old daughter, who recently had a baby.

"Every time she writes about me, she puts the whole thing in," Snyder complained, referring to details of her criminal history.

But such an order, known legally as a prior restraint on publication, would violate the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press, the judge explained.

"I have no authority to control the press," Whitehead told her.

"So if I took an article on her?" Snyder responded.

The judge pointed out that many people who are upset with a newspaper story write a letter to the editor.

Last year, Snyder persuaded another judge to spare her from serving jail time in a series of identity fraud and larceny cases by claiming that she had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was now on medication — a nearly identical claim she'd made to yet another judge back in 2004 in a federal forgery-related case.

But shortly after being released from a six-month house arrest earlier this year, she was charged by Peabody police with dealing heroin to undercover police officers.

As a result, her probation in the identity fraud case was revoked, and she is now serving a three- to four-year state prison sentence. She faces additional time if convicted on the heroin charges.

She's due back in court for another hearing in the case on Oct. 12.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or jmanganis@salemnews.com.

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