Lawyer seeks contempt charge against newspaper for printing records
FLORIDA–The Tampa Tribune faces contempt charges in a Florida court for publishing on January 31 the juvenile record of a defendant in a child abuse case. A Tribune reporter obtained the information from the court clerk’s office.
A hearing on the contempt charge was scheduled for February 6 by Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Perry Little. The defense attorney contends that the newspaper should be punished for printing records it knew it could not obtain legally.
On January 30, Little ordered the newspaper not to publish the information, stating that the newspaper obtained the record inadvertently or through misinterpretation of another judge’s order. Little stated that his order was “not intended to encompass information” that the reporter obtained “from other sources.”
However, the judge rescinded the prior restraint as “unenforceable” on February 3, after the Tribune filed an emergency petition for review to the Second District Court of Appeal in Tampa. The Tribune asserted that there is a “heavy presumption” against the constitutional validity of prior restraints.
Eric Shumpert, 20, and Tammy Lynn Kidder, 21, were charged in late January with aggravated child abuse, neglect and torture of their 2-year-old son, Eric, who had only recently been returned to the couple from foster care. The juvenile delinquency record consists of ten different criminal charges, including car theft and assault.
Shumpert’s lawyer, Andy Steingold, petitioned the court to hold the Tribune in contempt for publishing details of Shumpert’s juvenile record. According to Steingold, the information is confidential information under state law, and the court was unauthorized to release it. Steingold seeks to sanction the newspaper because the information is prejudicial and could have an adverse impact on his client’s fair trial right.
According to the Tribune, the first presiding judge, Gregory Holder, recused himself at Steingold’s request, after the judge stated that “[n]o one could see that baby and indeed be fair and impartial.” (Florida v. Shumpert; Media Counsel: Beth Johnson, Tampa)