|NMU||CALIFORNIA||Secret Courts||May 24, 2000|
Judge blasts attorney for not filing lawsuit under seal
- A gag order in a criminal case against a former SLA soldier should cover the filing of a related civil suit, according to a judge who labeled the attorney’s action “a breathtaking act of chutzpah.”
The Los Angeles judge presiding over the bombing trial of former Symbionese Liberation Army soldier Sara Jane Olson threatened on May 22 to sanction the attorney who filed a civil lawsuit against Olson because that attorney did not file the lawsuit under seal.
Superior Court Judge James Ideman said that attorney Bradley Gage’s decision to file former police officer James Bryan’s lawsuit in the traditional manner despite a gag order in Olson’s criminal case represented “a breathtaking act of chutzpah,” according to the Associated Press.
Ideman told Gage in open court that he would consider disciplinary action against Gage for the filing. Gage told Ideman that he had not sought any publicity when he filed the lawsuit and that he did not believe that he had violated Ideman’s gag order that bars lawyers and witnesses from speaking outside court about the case.
The AP reported that Ideman said that he will also hold hearing to discuss possible violations of the gag order by Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti and prosecution witness Patty Hearst Shaw. Shaw was kidnaped in 1974 by the SLA and then participated in an armed bank robbery with SLA members. After being captured and tried and convicted on robbery charges in 1976, she served less than two years of a seven year sentence before being pardoned by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.
The gag order “is not limited to any geographical boundaries given the reach of modern communications.” The order forbids parties, lawyers and witnesses from communicating to anyone about “the character, credibility, criminal record or reputation of any party, attorney or witness.” The order also does not allow any statements concerning physical evidence, the relative strength of the prosecution and defenses arguments, opinions about Olson’s guilt, the plea that Olson will enter, opinions about inadmissible evidence and opinions about any order of the court, including the gag order itself.
According to the AP, Bryan’s lawsuit claims that Olson “placed one or more bombs underneath of his police vehicle” in 1975 while Bryan dined with his partner at a Hollywood International House of Pancakes. The lawsuit claims that Bryan saw Olson “near his car on the night of the attempted bombing,” looking at him with “absolute contempt and hatred,” according to the AP. Bryan seeks money for his emotional distress, lost earnings and earnings capacity, medical and psychological bills and punitive damages.
Olson stands accused of putting bombs underneath two police cars in 1975 as part of an SLA plot to avenge the deaths of six SLA members who were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police officers. Although she was indicted in 1976, she remained at large until her 1999 capture in Minnesota.
(California v. Olson; Media Counsel: Karen Frederiksen, Los Angeles)
- Gag order expanded in SLA bombing trial (4/12/2000)
- Gag order in trial of fugitive extended (3/8/2000)
- TV cameras banned in anticipation of Patty Hearst’s testimony (1/19/2000)
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press