The judge instead reminded those involved to mind rules about making statements about pending cases.
By Associated Press
Published February 14, 2004
SARASOTA - A judge declined to impose a gag order Friday in the case against an auto mechanic charged in the abduction and slaying of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, but he wouldn't rule out issuing one later.
Circuit Judge Andrew D. Owens was asked by Joseph P. Smith's attorney, assistant public defender Adam Tebrugge, to prohibit everyone associated with the case from talking about it to the media.
Owens wrote that he "will not hesitate" to revisit the ruling if he thinks it is necessary.
Tebrugge argued that pervasive publicity already has damaged Smith's prospects of a fair trial. Carlie's Feb. 1 abduction from a carwash parking lot was captured by a surveillance camera, and the tape was broadcast worldwide.
Attorneys for local media outlets argued against the motion, saying intense coverage of an event, in and of itself, does not make a gag order necessary.
In his ruling, Owens admonished attorneys from both sides to adhere to the rules governing statements about pending cases. He also ordered prosecutors to review those restrictions with law enforcement officers.
He said little, if any media coverage has included law officers revealing facts about the discovery of the girl's body or evidence.
Owens also denied a motion by Tebrugge to seal documents filed about Smith's prosecution, calling the request "overbroad."
Investigators think Smith was the man shown on the video intercepting Carlie on her way home Feb. 1. He is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Smith was charged Feb. 3 after acquaintances saw the video on TV and called police. Carlie's body was found Feb. 6 near a church, 3 miles from the carwash, after Smith told a jail visitor where to find her, according to the arrest affidavit.