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Procter & Gamble withdraws motion to exclude press, public from trial

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Procter & Gamble withdraws motion to exclude press, public from trial 12/02/96 OHIO--In late October, The Procter & Gamble Company…

Procter & Gamble withdraws motion to exclude press, public from trial

12/02/96

OHIO–In late October, The Procter & Gamble Company voluntarily withdrew a motion it had filed in a Cincinnati criminal court to exclude the press and public from the trial of a former employee accused of unlawfully accessing P&G’s computer system. P&G had also asked the court to seal court documents and the transcripts.

Local media organizations intervened in the proceeding and opposed P&G’s motion, arguing that the First Amendment guarantees a public right of access to criminal proceedings. According to the intervenors, P&G’s request to close the trial based on the possible disclosure of confidential information was speculative and unsupported by law.

The defendant, Kenneth Asher, was accused of gaining unauthorized access to P&G’s computer network and network files, copying database table names, deleting database records and impeding legitimate access to the database. Asher is being tried before Judge Thomas Crush in the Court of Common Pleas in Cincinnati.

In its motion, P&G argued that Asher’s defense would necessarily include “the introduction of evidence of ways of getting into the P&G computer system in both an authorized and unauthorized manner,” and that closure was necessary to prevent the disclosure of information that is “confidential, secret or will result in irreparable harm to the company.”

P&G stated that it had a strong interest in protecting its trade secrets, and that Asher’s right to a public trial could be accommodated by closing the proceedings and sealing documents and transcripts only when “damaging information” was introduced. P&G suggested that a company representative could monitor the proceedings and identify such evidence for the court.

However, on October 25, the day P&G’s motion was scheduled for a hearing, the company withdrew the motion without comment.

The intervenors included The Cincinnati Post, WLWT-TV5, and WXIX- TV. (State of Ohio v. Asher; Media Counsel: Richard Goehler, Cincinnati)