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Media shut out of Enron executive's pretrial hearings

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Media shut out of Enron executive’s pretrial hearings

  • A federal judge did not allow reporters to attend pretrial hearings in the criminal case against Andrew Fastow, to avoid a discussion that “humiliates” the court or the parties.

Aug. 28, 2003 — Journalists were shut out of more hearings this week in the criminal case against former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow, according to Associated Press and Houston Chronicle reports.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt reportedly said the pretrial discussions consisted of “shop talk” that was “not relevant to the public’s digestion.”

“There are matters that do not need to be discussed in public in ways that embarrasses or humiliates the government or the defense and particularly the court,” Hoyt said, according to the Chronicle report.

The Chronicle had tried to attend the two hearings on Tuesday, but the request was denied. According to the newspaper’s account, its reporter and lawyer “were told to leave the hallway outside the second hearing by court security officers, who said Hoyt ordered them to do so. The officers said the two would be detained if they did not leave.”

The newspaper then asked the court to release transcripts of the two hearings and another one from late July, but Hoyt refused. The judge, who noted that he had decided to close the hearings himself without a request from either party, said he would clarify the situation within a month in a written ruling.

Bill Ogden, the newspaper’s attorney, had argued that such hearings cannot be held in private without a showing of a compelling interest. “I heard no compelling reason articulated today,” he said later.

(United States v. Fastow; Media intervenor’s counsel: Bill Ogden, Ogden, Gibson, White, Broocks & Longoria, L.L.P., Houston) GL

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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