The parents of murdered journalist Steven Sotloff were told by a White House counterterrorism official at a meeting last May that they could face criminal prosecution if they paid ransom to try to free their son
, a spokesman for the family told Yahoo News Friday night.
"The family felt completely and utterly helpless when they heard this," said Barak Barfi, a friend of Sotloff who is serving as a spokesman for his family. "The Sotloffs felt there was nothing they could do to get Steve out."
The journalist's father, Art, was "shaking" after the meeting with the official, who works for the National Security Council, Barfi said. The families of three other hostages being held by the militant group Islamic State were also at the White House meeting, sources told Yahoo News.