JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- Circuit Judge Adrian Soud on Wednesday lifted a gag order preventing local media from airing details from the recent attack of a 9-year-old in a Best Buy bathroom, but cautioning local media not to publish the information.
Soud lifted the emergency motion for protective order he issued last week, saying "there is an insufficient legal basis" to preemptively silence the media.
But he also pointedly reminded local media of its "duty" to help protect the rights of the accused to a fair trial.
Soud's order came after attorneys for local media -- including First Coast News and the Florida Times-Union -- argued that the gag order amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint on publication.
Soud last Wednesday held an emergency hearing at which he granted a motion by State Attorney Angela Corey and Assistant Public Defender Fred Gazaleh, prohibiting WJXT TV-4 from publishing two paragraphs from 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.
Soud also instructed reporters present in the courtroom not to publish any information introduced as evidence at the emergency hearing.
The police report contained some information -- including Tadros' statement to police -- that should have been redacted before the report was released. Attorneys for the defendant and the state believe the release of the information could prevent Tadros from receiving a fair trail.
However, attorneys argued 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 to acknowledge as much at Monday's hearing, alluding to the "sacred" right of a free press to "exercise its privileges."
The judge's order also removes his instructions that media not 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."
First Coast News