On his last day as Governor in 1982, Brendan Byrne pardoned the New York Times and one of their reporters, Myron Farber. They were convicted in 1978 on contempt of court charges after Farber refused to give prosecutors his notes in the Dr. X murder case.
The Times was fined, but Farber had spent forty days in jail before Byrne pardoned him.
Bergen County prosecutors had been investigating numerous instances of curare poisoning
Around 1975, Farber received a tip that more than three dozen patients at a private hospital in Bergen County had been murdered. With nothing more than a vague letter, Farber’s investigation led to the arrest of Dr. X — Mario Jascalevich – a surgeon at Riverdell Hospital in Oradell. Jascalevich was accused on poisoning the patients of a competing physician with a muscle relaxant called curare.
Jascalevich was represented by one of New Jersey’s most prominent criminal defense attorneys, Raymond Brown. Brown subpoenaed Farber’s notes, but the journalist – with his newspaper backing him up – refused. He was sentenced to six months in jail, and the Times was fined $5,000 daily. A jury ultimately acquitted Jascalevich.
Not only did Byrne pardon Farber, but he ordered that $100,000 in fines be returned to the Times. This was a governor who had captured the essence of media relations.