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A Free Society Would Gag Over Such an Order

A trial over a multi-count case of domestic violence in Portland, Maine, garnered press attention because the defendant was a “high-profile” criminal defense attorney. The attorney, Anthony J. Sineni III, 52, allegedly convinced Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz, the deputy chief of the state’s district court, to issue an order to restrict the media from reporting certain details about the case. The local newspaper, the Press Herald, objected, but the judge denied the objection, and threatened to eject reporters. Sineni pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in exchange for several felony counts being dropped, including for witness tampering, and for possession of stolen guns; his sentence was sealed by the judge. The Press Herald decided to violate the judge’s order and report the details it had heard after its attorney advised that “There is a 100 percent chance that the order is unlawful.” After the paper ran its story, quoting Sineni’s ex-girlfriend’s testimony (“Tony [Sineni] told me before that he is above the law and that if he gets away with this they won’t be able to touch him.”), Judge Moskowitz reopened the case and called a new hearing, calling back the attorneys — and the media. In the hearing, the judge apologized for the order, which he said was “not lawful,” and ordered it rescinded. The sentence was a “deferred disposition” that allows Sineni’s record to be cleared if he stays out of trouble. His ex-girlfriend is suing him. (RC/Portland Press Herald) ...“Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....” —First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Original Publication Date: 11 January 2015
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 21.

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