Gag Order Go-Around

DA’s Office Asks Judge to Stop Lance and Genis from Speaking to Media

The District Attorney’s Office has filed a motion asking Judge Brian Hill to order investigative reporter Peter Lance and his attorney Darryl Genis to refrain from making comments about Lance’s case to the media. Lance, who is facing a DUI charge, is the author of a series of pieces in the Santa Barbara News-Press alleging misconduct by arresting officer Kasi Beutel.

The proposed order also says the defendant should “remove any comments or information regarding this case that is currently posted on the internet in any form,” a line that raised Lance’s brow, and that of the News-Press, which published an article on the motion over the weekend.

According to opposition papers filed by Genis, the order “would not only preclude Mr. Lance from plying his chosen trade as an investigative journalist … but also to require both Mr. Lance and his lawyer to ‘scrub’ the entire World Wide Web of all things related to arrest and of anything having to do with Officer Kasi Beutel.”

The real substance of the proposed order, Chief Deputy DA Gordon Auchincloss explained, was related to them speaking to the media in the future — not what has already been published. And, he explained, the intent wasn’t to extend the proposed order to what the News-Press has printed, but to statements made by Lance and Genis on blogs or Web sites. The DA, in its motion, addresses a list of quotes — all from News-Press articles — which it calls inflammatory statements and which, according to the motion drawn up by Deputy DA Michael Carrozzo, “only add to the notoriety of this case and endanger the likelihood of the People receiving a fair trial.”

Genis not only opposed the DA’s motion on legal grounds but also said the office should be sanctioned for bringing a frivolous motion. The DA, he went on, should award Lance the costs and fees he paid connected to the motion — $1,500, for two hours of work by Genis.

Hill, who said a gag order on attorneys is fairly customary — though they must be narrowly tailored and would probably include both sides — continued the motion to October 25 to give everyone a chance to read Lance’s opposition papers. On that day, Beutel is expected to take the stand as part of a statutory suppression hearing. If the judge sides with Lance at the conclusion of that hearing, his case could very well be dismissed.

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