Prosecutors Break Gag Order, Defense Ask for Clarification– Bullet #173

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Prosecutors Break Gag Order, Defense Ask for Clarification – MJEOL Bullet #173 Michael Jackson’s defense attorneys have asked Judge Rodney Melville for a clarification of the gag order. Apparently two prosecutors, Tom Sneddon and Ron Zonen, engaged in behavior where they broke the gag order. Sneddon appeared on a discussion panel in Canada where he was specifically discussing this “case”, according to a witness who was present at the conference. Zonen did an interview with the Santa Barbara News-Press about this “case” as well.

Now, with prosecutors running to the judge in regards to one statement Jackson released about the 93 “case”, it seems rather imperative that Jackson’s lawyers ask the judge to check into the fact that the current district attorney appeared on a discussion panel discussing this “case” and that his colleague spoke directly to the media about it. This all stems from a National District Attorneys Association summer conference Sneddon attended late last month in Vancouver, Canada. The meetings/discussions were not supposed to be covered by the media, so they say. But a member of the media, Robert Matas (Globe and Mail) was there to witness what happened. The defense, in their Clarification of the Court’s Protective Order filed July 26 2004, cites both Matas’s article dated July 21 2004 and a follow-up interview he did with MSNBC’s Dan Abrams. Sneddon is the one who asked for this gag order in the first place. According to the gag order that he crafted specifically for this “case”, no attorney connected to this “case” as either prosecutors or defense attorneys can release, or authorize the release of, any statements or documents about this “case”. This also applies to anyone who’s been subpoenaed to testify or expected to testify in this “case”. Remember by this time Sneddon had already been subpoenaed to testify in this “case” concerning an illegal raid of private investigator Brad Miller’s office. In their motion, the defense does point out to the judge that Sneddon is both lead prosecutor and a witness. So he is a witness in this “case” as well as the lead prosecutor. He should not have been on any discussion panel talking about this “case”, as a witness to his words has said. The defense is asking the judge for clarification as to whether Sneddon is in violation of the gag order concerning 3 provisions in the gag order. They say Sneddon’s statements at the conference constitute the “release for public dissemination”; i.e. on a discussion panel telling other DAs how to handle high-profile cases:

(a) Mr. Sneddon is the lead prosecutor and a witness in this case; (b) Mr. Sneddon’s statements at the conference constitute release for public dissemination of any purported extrajudicial statement of a witness relating to this case; (see motion)

At that conference, Sneddon also admitted that he sent out letters to some people in this “case” in order to keep them off tv. For this, Jackson’s lawyers are requesting clarification from the judge as to whether these letters constitute a release of documents or any evidence in this “case”, which would break the gag order as well. The defense attorneys also request via a supplemental motion filed on July 29 2004, clarification as to whether or not Senior Deputy DA Ron Zonen, co-counsel of the Jackson “case”, also violated the gag order by talking to the Santa Barbara News-Press:

Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen, who is co-counsel on the Jackson prosecution team, told the News-Press that the comment quoted in The Globe and Mail was either “a misquote or a lie”. Mr. Zonen insisted that the District Attorney’s’s[sic] office sent letters only to witnesses. (see supplemental motion)

Zonen even goes into detail about how and why they notified people in this “case”. I’m not kidding. He’s actually talking to the press about how and why prosecutors keep witnesses and other people from talking to the press! The Santa Barbara News-Press article continues with Zonen’s comments:

“We were notifying the witnesses of the presence of the protective order and that to comment on the case could put them in violation of the order,” Mr. Zonen said. “There was no one we sent a letter to who we did not call as a witness. And the way you notify witnesses of the existence of a protective order is by mail.” … “(Mr. Sneddon) was also assured that there was no press present,” Mr. Zonen said. “And he told everyone he would be answering no questions about Michael Jackson. “Someone snuck in and then misquoted him. He never said that. We never did that. He did not discuss Michael Jackson. And he did not violate the gag order.” pg2 Supplemental Request

So not only is he calling the person who witnessed Sneddon’s violation a liar, but he’s also discussing who (although not naming names) they sent letters to, how they were sent, and for what reason they were sent. What’s so incredible about this situation is that prosecutors expect everyone on the defense’s side to keep their mouth shut, while they can be involved in panel discussions (Sneddon) and do an interview with a local newspaper (Zonen). Just imagine the hissy-fit that prosecutors would have thrown had this been Tom Mesereau or Robert Sanger! They got Jackson and Mesereau chastised by the judge for what some say is a questionable decision concerning the gag order. Then they turn around and engage in behavior like this? Could this be the result of unchecked behavior in the past cases? Did Sneddon really feel like he could get away with making these statements? Did Zonen really think he wasn’t breaking the gag order by trying to explain-away Sneddon’s behavior? Melville’s decisions will be very telling. Stay tuned. -MJEOL

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