WCSH6TV reports “Some local news outlets, including NEWS CENTER, are challenging a local judge on an order he issued in court Monday.
NEWS CENTER’s attorneys agree that this order is unconstitutional, and therefore, we are going to report the complete series of events that took place in court.
Anthony Sineni, who is a well-known lawyer, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges that stemmed from a domestic incident involving Sineni’s former girlfriend and the mother of his children. She was the only witness who testified in court. She spoke at length about the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of Sineni. She described the violence in detail and said that Sineni had told her children not report the abuse to police.
When Judge Moskowitz called Sineni’s case, he addressed the three members of the media in the room, which included a reporter and a photographer from WCSH-TV, and instructed them not to record any of the testimony given by witnesses. That’s a request often made by judges and NEWS CENTER generally complies with it. Moskowitz then further instructed the press not to report any of the witness testimony. When the Portland Press Herald’s reporter was asked for time to call his lawyer, the judge refused and proceeded with the case.
NEWS CENTER has hired First Amendment attorney Jonathan Piper to assist us in handling this matter. He said he was shocked to learn that there was an order telling the press what they could report in an open court proceeding.
“This is one of those unfortunate instances where a judge has made a decision that they probably wish they hadn’t made, and the media, not just locally but nationally, is going to link arms and make sure that decisions like this don’t happen” Piper said. He also emphasized the importance of Freedom of the Press in the courtroom.
“Courts impose sentences. They put people in jail. They fine them. And if we don’t know the reasons why courts do what they do, we are all in trouble,” he said.
NEWS CENTER is also filing a formal complaint with the court, and we received a phone call from the court Tuesday afternoon saying the judge is calling a hearing Wednesday to “clear things up.” NEWS CENTER will attend the hearing and will report the proceedings.”
To view NEWS CENTER report and read more, click here.
BDN reports “The unprecedented oral order, issued by Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz, drew criticism Tuesday from First Amendment advocates.
“This order is a major strike to the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about its court system and those accused of crimes,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition in Westborough, Massachusetts, said Tuesday in an email. “It is pre-publication censorship and almost certainly an unconstitutional prior restraint. It is disappointing that a judge of this stature would disregard such fundamental First Amendment protections.”
The gag order was announced at a hearing where Anthony J. Sineni II, 52, of Standish, a criminal defense lawyer in southern Maine, was convicted on one count each of assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. The plea agreement was a result of negotiations with the Maine attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case, Sineni’s attorney, Christopher Largay of Bangor, said Tuesday.
In exchange for Sineni’s plea, a misdemeanor count of domestic violence assault, three counts of witness tampering and one count of possession of a stolen gun or guns were dismissed, all of which are felonies, Largay said.
Moskowitz scheduled the unusual hearing for 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the Maine court system.”
Read more HERE.
Related: Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz To Serve As Deputy Chief Judge Of The Maine District Courts, click here.