Fechter, when asked about his relationship with a federal prosecutor,
initially said, âIâm not sure that is anybodyâs business.â But when
asked how people might perceive rumors that he dated Krigsman during
the trial, Fechter asserted, âIt was not going on during trial....
Subsequent to the trial ending, we got together. Cherie had accepted a
job here previously, so she came back in late June or July and yeah,
weâve been seeing each other since then.â
Fechter did confirm that he had received a gift from Krigsman â a shirt
from a U.S. embassy â prior to the start of the trial. He said Krigsman
was thanking him for recommending a synagogue and that he threw the
Fechter was married for 17 years and has two teenage children before
being divorced in August. His ex-wife, Jackie Fechter, declined to
comment other than to say that she first found about the Krigsman
relationship âvery, very recently,â long after the reporter had
informed his editors of the affair this spring.
Krigsman, who was in the military for 23 years before joining the
Justice Department, was previously based in Washington, D.C., where one
source who asked not to be named said she had been offered a top
counter-terrorism post. Instead, she opted to return to Tampa, where
she was temporarily assigned since 2004 for the Al-Arian case. She
bought a house in a north Tampa neighborhood in June.
Krigsmanâs office referred questions about the relationship to Steve
Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Tampa, who promised a
statement on the matter on Monday but did not produce one.
While it remains unclear if Krigsmanâs bosses knew (or approved) of her
relationship, Fechter told his editors in the spring that he could no
longer write about the Al-Arian case because of his closeness to
Krigsman. Since the end of the trial in Dec. 2005 and the disbanding
of an investigative unit that he worked in, Fechter has reported on
politics and Floridaâs 2006 elections.
Tampa Tribune Executive Editor Janet Weaver said Fechterâs disclosure
came just before Al-Arianâs plea bargain in mid-April and shows good
faith on the reporterâs part to be open about the relationship: âMikeâs
work [on the Al-Arian story] long preceded any involvement in the
courts; his background on it long precedes his being acquainted with
But Weaver acknowledged that the development would be fodder for
critics of the newspaperâs strident Al-Arian investigative coverage.
âIâm not naÃ¯ve,â Weaver said. âPeople who look for agendas and bias
will seize onto this. I feel comfortable that when [Fechter] saw this
was moving onto a different direction, he said something.â
Fechterâs role in the Al-Arian story has long been controversial. The
Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, Salon.com and Creative Loafing
wrote critical accounts, taking the Trib and Fechter to task for what
they said were highly biased accounts and an anti-Arab tilt. The plea
agreement represented at least some degree of vindication for Fechterâs
assertion that Al-Arian operated a nest of terrorists under the noses
of his USF bosses as it became clear that, even if he wasnât a major
terror leader, Al-Arian did lie to local journalists and civic leaders
about his involvement in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The stories in which Fechter mentions Krigsman do not reveal any
favoritism toward her. She did figure prominently in his account of a
physical altercation she had with Al-Arian defense lawyer William
Moffitt in which Moffitt lost his temper and bumped her during a court
Kelly McBride, an ethics expert at the Poynter Institute for Media
Studies in St. Petersburg, said, âSleeping with sources is not a good
idea.â But she added that itâs not unusual for relationships to
develop. McBride also said that if the Tribune had determined Fechterâs
relationship with Krigsman commenced after he ceased reporting on
Al-Arian, the newspaper had no obligation to report the story.