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Orders closing child pornography case lifted

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         FLORIDA         Prior Restraints         Mar 10, 2000    

Orders closing child pornography case lifted

  • A judge who previously ordered a reporter not to publish names in a child pornography case will allow reports of the charges after a newspaper challenged the orders.

The Miami Herald successfully convinced a judge to rescind orders that had attempted to keep the names of the parents of a defendant facing child pornography charges out of both court papers and the media, according to a report published in the March 10 Herald.

The newspaper reported that Miami Circuit Judge Stanford Blake had initially ordered a newspaper reporter present at a March 9 bond hearing not to publish the name of the defendant. “You can listen, but you are being ordered not to place the names on the record,” Blake reportedly told a Herald reporter in open court. “Nothing is to be included that makes it obvious.”

According to the Herald, the case concerns 188 charges of trafficking in child pornography against Ross Furman, who is the son of philanthropists Jerrold and Nancy Blair.

Following Jerrold Blair’s testimony, Blake reportedly told his court reporter to remove Blair’s name from the transcript of the court hearing. Blake’s order came after hearing a request from Steven Potolsky, Blair’s attorney, that the judge ban the public from attending the bond hearing, according to the Herald. “The court clearly has authority to protect witnesses,” Potolsky said. “The alternative is that a good, upstanding citizen of this community, active in charities, would have been discouraged from giving testimony.”

The newspaper reported that Blake lifted his order later that day after lawyers for the Herald successfully argued against it at an emergency hearing they had requested.

Blake acknowledged that he had no legal basis on which to make his orders but said that he had been motivated by a desire to see the Blair’s charitable works remain unharmed. “I ordered it because it would do irreparable harm, not only to them but to the charitable boards they’re involved with,” the Herald quoted Blake as saying. “I didn’t see why it was newsworthy.”

“The issue here is: Who decides what goes in the newspaper?” Sanford Bohrer, a lawyer representing the Herald, told the newspaper. “Who is the editor of the newspaper? When you come here to testify in open court, it’s open to the public. This is the most egregious order against the First Amendment.”

Furman, 28, surrendered on March 8 after allegedly engaging in sexual conversations in Internet chat rooms with undercover police officers he believed to be minors, according to the newspaper. Miami-Dade Police have seized Furman’s computer and claim that it contains hundreds of sexually explicit photos of children.

(Florida v. Furman; Media Counsel: Sanford Bohrer, Miami)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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