OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A judge in Oakland on Friday granted a gag order requested by Alameda County prosecutors in the case of the deadly ghost ship fire.
The East Bay Times reports the gag order will ban attorneys, defendants and 200 potential witnesses from talking to the media about the case.
The order is to prevent potential jurors from being tainted before a trial even begins.
The order was debated at a hearing on Friday morning in front of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, who recently was assigned to preside over the trial
Master tenant Derick Almena, 48, and creative director Max Harris, 28, are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fire during a music party at the warehouse at 1309 31st Ave. on Dec. 2, 2016, which killed 36 people.
Prosecutors Autrey James and David Lim argued the gag order is necessary to prevent the defense from tainting the pool of potential jurors for the trial, which is scheduled to begin on April 2.
Referring to Almena’s lawyer, Tony Serra, and Harris’ lawyer, Curtis Briggs, Lim and James also say, “Defense counsel have spoken to the press after every court appearance, calling into question the law enforcement investigation, blaming the deaths on government employees with the city of Oakland and Alameda County and other public agencies and calling out society in general for the defendants’ actions in this case.”
Briggs wrote in a brief opposing the motion for a gag order that he believes it is “Alameda County District Attorney’s transparent attempt to hide the ugly truth: that the prosecution of Harris and Almena is wholly lacking in justice and integrity. Fortunately for Harris and Almena the protective order the prosecution seeks is entirely unconstitutional.”
Briggs said he thinks the prosecution is mad at him for the comments he made to the news media after the Jan. 2 hearing at which Thompson was appointed, in which he said, “The prosecution of Harris and Almena by Nancy O’Malley’s office is the highest form of institutional corruption, is the highest and most egregious form of scapegoating.”
Briggs wrote, “The very next day, the prosecution, suddenly concerned about a ‘fair trial,’ hastily authored a motion for a protective order.”
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.