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Tuned In: Redmond's reaction not appealing

Saturday, October 26, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Gina Redmond may be her own worst enemy. Even before the hearing this week over a private harassment complaint filed by WTAE producer Roberta Petterson that Redmond, a WPXI news anchor, slapped her in the face at a bar in August, Redmond's personal credibility took a beating.

She was the butt of jokes and skits on local radio stations and gossip for workplace water coolers.

Still, Redmond could have overcome the embarrassment with one simple act: contrition.

People are willing to forgive public figures when they apologize, when they seek help. KDKA's Don Cannon is a perfect example of a local anchor who went through a rough patch (in his case, alcoholism and depression), got control of the problem, returned to the public eye and was warmly welcomed.

WPXI general manager Ray Carter said he's not concerned about Redmond's image.

"I think Pittsburghers tend to be forgiving people," he said. "The fact of the matter is most people in our community find this to be either a nuisance or a low-temperature bother and don't really care much either way."

On Wednesday, Redmond entered a plea of no contest, not admitting guilt. Petterson's attorney read a statement of what happened and was ready with witnesses in the courtroom. The judge ordered Redmond to complete three hours of community service, directing her to arrange three school visits in which she would talk with students.

Many in the media talk to school children regularly without being asked to by a judge, so to call the sentence "light" is an understatement. That should have been the end of it, a slap on the wrist for a slap in the face.

But Wednesday afternoon, presumably after seeing coverage of the case in which the judge said "the evidence presented shows Miss Redmond is guilty," Redmond phoned the Post-Gazette's Johnna Pro and said she planned to appeal.

Appeal what? Three hours of community service?

Shooting herself in the foot further, Redmond claimed she "didn't fully understand what was taking place in court."

A news anchor/reporter, who you'd think considers herself more than just a news reader, didn't understand what happened in court? That damages her professional reputation. She could have looked up the plea in advance (it's even defined in the Associated Press Stylebook).

Her confusion about what happened in court was understandable, Carter said.

"I think most of us are not familiar with legal positionings and strategies," he said. "I don't know that it's surprising to anybody that a legal term or strategy might be confusing."

Redmond wants to come away from this unscathed, but that's not going to happen. The damage is done and the longer she persists, the worse it will get.

In court, her lawyer, James Ecker, said, "If we called witnesses, something else may be shown."

Redmond's witnesses were never identified. Witnesses prepared to testify for Petterson include an assistant district attorney (an officer of the court) and WTAE anchor Michelle Wright, highly regarded personally and professionally.

Yesterday, Redmond said she would "absolutely" appeal and announced that she had hired a new attorney, David S. Shrager, to handle the case. She also indicated she may hold a news conference sometime next week.

"Miss Redmond is appealing so that her side of the story can be heard," Shrager said. He pinned the appeal on "prior counsel's failure to explain the consequences of her 'nolo contendere' plea. ... I'm confident that when that testimony is heard there will be a much different result."

"If she gets witnesses to say she didn't hit me," Petterson said, "they'll be lying under oath."

WPXI's Carter said Redmond's return to the air from paid leave has not been determined, dependent on the timing of her appeal.

Whatever WPXI ultimately decides about her future with the station, Redmond's reputation in Pittsburgh may be irreparably damaged.

You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to http://www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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