A federal judge on Saturday ordered that details of a supposedly secret plea deal in the case of a California cop who is accused of working with Mexican criminals be pulled from a newspaper story, even after the deal was made public.
The Los Angeles Times had written an article about the agreement between prosecutors and Glendale detective John Saro Balian. It got its information from a public online database of federal court documents.
After the article was posted online, Balian’s attorney took the paper to court to get a temporary restraining order, which the judge granted, Fox News reported.
“To the extent any article is published prior to issuance of this order, it shall be deleted and removed forthwith,” U.S. District Judge John F. Walter wrote.
The Times will fight the order, The Hill reported.
“We believe that once material is in the public record, it is proper and appropriate to publish it if it is newsworthy,” said Norman Pearlstine, executive editor of The Times.
The newspaper’s argument was that even if the document was supposed to be sealed, once it was made public that process cannot be reversed.
California judge forces LA Times to alter story about detective with alleged ties to Mexican mafia https://t.co/2PnBsCPSrA #FoxNews John Balian was one of five Armenian-American Glendale police … that he was harassed and discriminated against because of his ethnicity. HAHA
— Proud Mary (@freedomschild77) July 16, 2018
“Typically, courts take into account if information was already published. Where it is no longer secret, the point of the restraining order is mooted,” said Kelli Sager, an attorney for the paper. “To order a publication to claw it back doesn’t even serve the interest that may be intended.”
Peter Scheer, a former executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said once the information was made public, no matter how, it was “fair game,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
“A news organization that wishes to write about the content has the right to do so under the First Amendment,” he said. “Whether or not a journalist should is a matter of editorial discretion or journalistic ethics. It’s a separate matter. It’s not a legal matter.
“There are good reasons to have strict limitations on judicial power to order things to be taken down and to order people to do things who aren’t actually involved in the case. Those limits are essential parts of our freedom and liberties under the Constitution.”
Why is this info being "protected" anyway?
"Detective Balian pleaded guilty last week to three counts, including lying to investigators about his ties to organized crime, accepting a bribe and obstructing justice after tipping off a top criminal about… https://t.co/y8dHaP4MUB
— RD Carrington (@rdcarrington) July 16, 2018
Balian had pleaded guilty last week to three counts against him, including lying to investigators, taking a bribe and obstructing justice.
In its reporting on Balian’s case, The Times wrote that Balian, at one point, tipped off a gang about an impending gang sweep. He was also accused of telling gangs the locations of drug stashes, based on inside police information.
The story in which the plea agreement was outlined now carries an editor’s note that reads, “This story has been updated to remove references from the filed plea agreement, which was ordered sealed by a judge but publicly available Friday on the federal court’s online document database. The changes were made to comply with an order issued Saturday by a U.S. federal judge. The Times plans to challenge the order.”
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