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Judge expected to issue ruling on media gag order in Best Buy beating case

11:42 AM, Sep 10, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- Circuit Judge Adrian Soud is expected to issue an order this week, either extending or lifting a gag order on local media.

Soud's gag order, issued after an emergency hearing last Wednesday, prevented local media from airing details of the recent attack of a 9-year-old in a Best Buy bathroom.

Soud also instructed reporters present in the courtroom last week not to publish any information introduced as evidence at the emergency hearing.

Attorneys for local media - including First Coast News and the Florida Times-Union - argued Monday that the gag order amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint on publication.

The issue surfaced last week, after WJXT TV-4 obtained an unredacted copy of the police report of James Patrick Tadros, 29. Tadros was arrested and charged with attempted murder, false imprisonment and criminal mischief in the Aug. 23 attack at the Southside Boulevard Best Buy.

The police report contained some information - including Tadros' statement to police - that should have been redacted before the report was released by the Clerk of Courts. Attorneys for the defendant and the state believe the release of the information could prevent Tadros from receiving a fair trial.

However, attorneys for local media argued Monday that courts cannot prohibit publication of details of a criminal trial "unless the need for secrecy is manifestly overwhelming." As long as the information is legally obtained and trustful, the press cannot be prevented from publishing it, or punished for doing so.

Soud appeared sympathetic to that argument at Monday's hearing, alluding to the "sacred" right of a free press to "exercise its privileges."

The judge's original order also instructed local media not to report what they'd heard in the courtroom. Gregg Leslie, staff attorney from the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, called that demand hard to defend or enforce. In an interview with our news partner, the Florida Times Union, Leslie said, "That kind of blanket, after-the-fact prior restraint can never be withheld. If you learn something in a courtroom, a judge can't order you to after-the-fact unknow it."

We will update this story when the judge issues his order.

First Coast News

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