Geragos wants gag gone

06/14/2003 9:15 AM

11/20/2007 6:39 AM

Scott Peterson's defense attorneys asked a judge Friday to rescind his gag order in the double murder case and to hold a contempt-of-court hearing for attorney Gloria Allred.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos alleged in paperwork filed Friday that Allred -- "mocking the authority of this court" -- violated the gag order just hours after it was issued.

Allred represents potential prosecution witness Amber Frey, who admitted having a romantic relationship with Peterson. Allred appeared Thursday on a national cable talk show and discussed the case.

But Allred said she did not violate the order because it didn't apply to her.

"I think this is an attempt to silence me," Allred said in a faxed statement responding to the defense allegations. "The protective order makes no reference to me, and Mark Geragos knows that."

Peterson, 30, is charged with murdering his 27-year-old wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son, Conner.

Their decomposed bodies washed up in April along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. Peterson has pleaded not guilty. He could be sentenced to death if convicted on both counts.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami issued the gag order Thursday, saying it would be "extremely difficult to select a fair and impartial jury" without such an order to prevent "rumors and gossip" from being rehashed shortly before trial.

The order covers a range of people, including defense and prosecution attorneys and "persons subpoenaed or expected to testify." It does not, how-ever, specifically refer to attorneys representing potential witnesses.

During her Thursday night appearance on the Fox News show "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren, Allred said that the defense did not present evidence of "other suspects" during a closed hearing June 6 about unsealing search warrants in the case.

That information was contained in a separate ruling issued Thursday by Judge Roger M. Beauchesne.

Geragos wrote that Allred's comments amounted to saying on national television that "there is no defense to this case and no evidence favorable to the defense."

He noted that Allred publicly commented about meeting with prosecutors to discuss Frey's role as a potential witness.

Geragos argued in the filings that the gag order left him powerless to counter negative statements about his client.

"Neither Mr. Peterson nor the prosecution has the ability to intelligently respond to the blatant misinformation being bandied about," he wrote.

If Girolami does not rescind the gag order, Geragos wants him to clarify whom it covers.

Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold declined to comment on the situation, saying that prosecutors still are reviewing the gag order.

"We're not going to make any comments until we know we're on firm ground to comment," Goold said. "In the meantime, we're not saying anything."

Prosecutors had supported a limited gag order, but Girolami's ruling is much broader in scope than their suggestions.

Charity Kenyon, a Bee attorney who also represents other media outlets, opposed any gag order, noting it could violate constitutionally protected free-speech rights.

Defense attorneys had also argued against a gag order, saying it undercut their ability to counter four months of police "misinformation."

In his filing Friday, Geragos said the order is unconstitutional because it eliminates Peterson's ability to respond to "inaccurate statements," thus depriving Peterson of his right to a fair trial.

Allred, in her faxed statement, said there is no need to subject her to the order.

"I have never said that Mr. Peterson was guilty," Allred wrote. "I have always said that it is for a jury to decide."

Allred said she will not be arguing or testifying at trial and was not privy to any evidence, "except Ms. Frey's conversations with me, which I will never discuss."

Frey said she had a romantic relationship with Peterson, who told her he was not married when they met Nov. 20.

The Fresno massage therapist said she went to police on Dec. 30 after seeing news reports that Laci Peterson had been reported missing Christmas Eve.

Police said Frey cooperated with their investigation, and court documents show she talked with Peterson on a tapped phone line at about 10 p.m. on Jan. 20.

Four days later, she held a news conference announcing her involvement with Peterson.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or jcote@modbee.com.

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