Joe Muto, the former producer for Bill O'Reilly who did a short-lived star turn as "the Fox Mole" here on Gawker about a year ago, will plead guilty today in a Manhattan criminal courtroom to misdemeanor attempted theft and attempted computer tampering charges.
The agreement, in which the Manhattan District Attorney's office has pledged not to file harsher felony charges in exchange for Muto's guilty plea on lesser offenses, stems from unaired, behind-the-scenes Fox News footage that was published on Gawker last year in posts attributed to the Fox Mole.
The Manhattan DA has been investigating Muto since April of last year, when it raided his apartment and confiscated his laptop, cell phone, and iPad. The agreement calls for Muto to pay a $1,000 fine, to forfeit the $5,000 "fruits of his wrongdoing"—Muto was (reportedly!) paid $5,000 by Gawker for his posts—and to serve more than 200 hours in community service at a nonprofit.
After he outed himself, Muto—whose work here was accompanied by, among other things, footage of Mitt Romney chatting about his dressage horses with Sean Hannity during commercial breaks and a picture of Bill O'Reilly with a topless woman—secured a reported six-figure book deal with Dutton. That book, An Atheist in the FOXhole, is due out next month.
In his terrible, error-filled authorized biography Roger Ailes: Off Camera, Ailes acolyte Zev Chafets described the internal reaction at Fox News to Muto's gambit. At one point, Ailes's bodyguard Jimmy, a former NYPD detective, suggested to Ailes that a criminal case could be made.
"You know," said Jimmy, whose career in the NYPD was spent investigating organized crime and drug dealers, "if this Gawker paid for stolen goods, it could be part of the crime, same as if somebody hires a hitman."
There was a pause and then Ailes said to Brian [Lewis, his chief flack], "We should have legal look into that." A few weeks later, the New York district attorney's office sent detectives to seize Joe Muto's files and notebooks.
More than a year ago, we filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the district attorney's office seeking any communications with Fox News or News Corp staffers over the past several years. It still has not complied with the request.
Our professional advice to Muto is to do his community service time at Media Matters for America.