Court Tells Journalist Barrett Brown He And His Lawyers Can't Talk To The Press Any More

from the that's-insane dept

We just wrote about the ridiculousness of Barrett Brown’s case, in which he’s been in jail and facing a very long sentence mainly for copying a URL from one place to another, but also because the feds have been seeking a media gag. Tragically, the court has now granted that gag order. Neither Brown nor his legal team is allowed to speak to the media:

No person covered by this order shall make any statement to members of any television, radio, newspaper, magazine, internet (including, but not limited to, bloggers), or other media organization about this case, other than matters of public record, that could interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice Defendant, the Government, or the administration of justice….

This gag order seems somewhat ridiculous. The idea that having Brown or his legal team talking to the press would somehow unfairly bias the jury in his case is ridiculous. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect Brown and his legal team to try to draw attention to the ridiculousness of the case, and the only purpose of this sort of gag order is to silence the press and keep the story from getting the kind of attention it deserves, as yet another example of prosecutorial overreach by the DOJ.

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Comments on “Court Tells Journalist Barrett Brown He And His Lawyers Can't Talk To The Press Any More”

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62 Comments
Gothenem (profile) says:

Definition of Media

“No person covered by this order shall make any statement to members of any television, radio, newspaper, magazine, internet (including, but not limited to, bloggers), or other media organization about this case, other than matters of public record, that could interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice Defendant, the Government, or the administration of justice…. “

This is a court statement that Television, Radio, Newspaper, Magazine, AND Internet (including, but not limited to bloggers) are all media (by the words or other media, suggesting that all the previous are part of media). Maybe this will finally put to rest statements like “Bloggers are not journalists”. Since this is an official court stance, it can be called into other court cases as being “on the record”. Perhaps Senator Feinstein needs to expand her Shield law (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130807/13153224102/sen-feinstein-during-shield-law-debate-real-journalists-draw-salaries.shtml) to include all of the above. Otherwise, the courts need to drop Internet (including but not limited to bloggers) from their order.

You can’t have it both ways. Either bloggers are journalists or they are not. You can’t have them be journalists when it suits your purpose, but when it doesn’t suit your purpose, suddenly they aren’t.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Definition of Media

You can’t have it both ways. Either bloggers are journalists or they are not. You can’t have them be journalists when it suits your purpose, but when it doesn’t suit your purpose, suddenly they aren’t.

You forget, changing definitions to suit the argument and hypocrisy are politician specialties, they very well do believe they should get to have it both ways.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Definition of Media

While I sympathize with your underlying politics, I don’t think the incidental inclusion of blogging under journalism, as opposed to being listed next to journalism, is an essential feature of the order. It does not serve any important legal purpose that the next judge would not be willing to give up. So I doubt that it establishes any precedents. You can’t get so much mileage of of these incidental remarks.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Definition of Media

i will bang the drum for my new meme:
reporters, etc should have no rights SUPERIOR to all of us nobodies: they are acting as OUR proxies, therefore, they have the SAME rights as each of us as individuals have, and vice versa…

in effect, we are ALL ‘reporters’ as citizens, only: there are some people (AND corporations) who act (supposedly) on OUR BEHALF as proxies for getting/disseminating information, attending meetings/pressers/ etc, that is IMPOSSIBLE for all of us regular citizens to make time to do…

we ALL have the same rights The They ™ are trying to eliminate for both citizens AND citizens-as-reporters; it is of a piece…

as far as i’m concerned, there is NO RIGHT/mechanism THE STATE has to dissuade, discourage, or criminalize the gathering and reporting of facts WE ALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO… it is only because we live in a specialized society, that we have some citizens doing the work for us which we ALL would ordinarily have the right to do, period, period, period…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

WE ALL get access to public documents, NOT JUST reporters; WE ALL get access to public meetings, etc, NOT JUST reporters; WE ALL enjoy ‘shield laws’, ‘protecting sources’, etc ‘rights’, NOT JUST reporters…

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Definition of Media

The government has no problem with double-think. A perfect example is privacy, which they breach with bland disregard when it’s to their advantage…but when it’s to the people’s advantage, all of a sudden, “We must protect individual privacy!” There are dozens of other examples of this type of double-think; all it takes is a us-versus-them mentality and a guileless expression.

That One Guy (profile) says:

And check off another box in the 'Is your country a police state/dictatorship?' list

Secret courts, secret rulings, secret laws, and now secret cases where the defendant is not allowed to present their side of the story to the public.

Looks like the DoJ learned their lesson from cases like Swartz’s, that if you’re going to railroad someone into a verdict of your choosing, things go much easier if the public is kept in the dark about the details.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: Phreespeech is phor phools

If America was indeed a Democratic Republic, wouldn’t we have actual democracy? What we’ve got is a shrinking pool of choices between “bad” and “worse,” and the people aren’t being represented or properly informed, so they’re not really able to take part in political decision-making since they don’t really know what’s going on, beyond what their favorite media outlets tell them.

If it wasn’t for Techdirt, would we ever have heard of PIPA and SOPA before they came to public attention? I doubt it.

My point is, on paper you may well be correct, but in practice, that’s gone. What we’ve got is an illusion, and even that’s beginning to fade as the realities of living in a police state kick in.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So this is how we administrate justice now.
Secret laws, secret hearings, secret courts, secretly gathered intel whitewashed via other channels, secret rulings, all done in the most ‘transparent’ way possible.

Don’t you dare point out to the public that this case is about someone posting a URL and the massive overreaction to punish someone we had a hardon over!

This is where we are today.
They ignored the law in RojaDirect, Dajaz1, MegaUpload.
They piled on charges against people who spoke out about the witch hunt against them.
And now your no longer allowed to say anything that might make people question the legal system and its enforcers.

This is not democracy, this is not how the legal system was designed to operate, this is a Government hellbent on bullying anyone that might make them look bad with the truth.

Maybe the real solution would be for the Government to stop doing all of this shit that makes them look like the dictators they threaten to bomb.

Anonymous Coward says:

Gag orders happen all of the time to keep cases from being tried in the media… you know to preserve objectivity? Why is this case “special”? Could it be because Brown, is facing a very long sentence mainly for copying a URL from one place to another which is a total trivialization of charges you simply don’t like.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Gag orders happen all of the time to keep cases from being tried in the media”

Gee wiz, it must be ok then.

Do you have one example of a situation where a gag order makes sense? Not simply because it happens all the time, but a reasonable rational for hiding court proceedings from the public. I can’t think of any, but then I’m not an expert like yourself. btw, what percentage of all court cases are subjected to gag orders – I’m curious what constitutes “all the time”.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

a reasonable rational for hiding court proceedings from the public.

The proceedings are a matter of public record; those are explicitly excluded from this gag order, and I assume all others as well.

Not that I think this is a good idea, but the order prohibits them from making “any statement… that could interfere with a fair trial”. The problem I see with that is it’s overly broad – “could” interfere. A lawyer might successfully argue that almost anything could interfere with a fair trial. But if were worded a little better, such as “would be reasonably likely to interfere”, then would that be such a big deal?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The proceedings are a matter of public record; those are explicitly excluded from this gag order, and I assume all others as well.”

I thought the proceedings were also hidden, similar to those of the secret courts, otherwise what does a media gag order do for them?

It would be a strange situation if everyone, including the media, is ordered to not talk about something when it is a matter of public record.

I’m not sure how this contributes to a “fair trial”.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I thought the proceedings were also hidden, similar to those of the secret courts, otherwise what does a media gag order do for them?

All the court proceedings, unless specifically put under seal, are a matter of public record. So they could mention any of that to the press, but couldn’t say anything else that “could interfere with a fair trial”.

Craig (profile) says:

At the rate our government is going we might beat North Korea to the bottom of the hill. Even if we could somehow put the brakes on, the sheer mass of what is going on will take us to the bottom. Every single day I think how much worse can it get; and then it gets worse. I also thought that Bush jr. would be considered one of the worst presidents ever, not so much anymore. I am truly shocked by what is happening to my country and the president that sets for the rest of the world. I wonder is it just me, maybe I’m too old to understand, (55), maybe this is just a phase we will outgrow, maybe it’s not as bad as I see it, but then why do I feel like my front door might come crashing in some night with masked men in black body armor, M16’s, and a warrant from a secret court, for what; a comment on the web? Why would I feel like that in a country that spends $52 billion plus dollars for my safety? Think of the children they say, and I do think of the children and the meager budget our schools have to live with. How much does an intelligence analyst make compared to a middle school teacher and how many lives does he enrich in his career of world domination. Ok, ok I know he might find a terrorist plot once in his career, sometime, and save some lives, maybe. How many intelligence analyst does it take to make us safe? How many terrorist plots are there to be discovered? How many analysts for each actual terrorist? Why is the word terrorist used like McCarthy used the word communist?

And; why are people that seek the truth and are interested in bringing to light the wrongs, and yes, crimes of our leaders being persecuted?

Because they can.

Because its easier to go after “little people” than it is to go after real criminals who run the banks, the government, and the military/intelligence industrial complex.

I have to go, I heard a Humvee in the front yard.

kitsune361 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Should probably have said “… worst president of my lifetime…” Most people have only an abstract idea of how bad presidents they never experienced are.

That said, I thought Bush Jr. was bad and then Obama comes along and really raises the bar. People are getting pretty bipartisan in their disdain for the executive these days.

velox (profile) says:

Regional differences in Gag orders

This gag order would never have been issued if it was coming from a state within the 3rd, 6th, 7th or 9th Districts. Unfortunately Texas is in the 5th District which happens to allow the most restrictive, and at the same time the most weakly supported gag orders in the country. Based on what you can read here, here, and here, it seems unlikely that the 5th Appellate Court would overturn the gag.
Given the split between the Districts, at some future time, the standard for the issuance of a gag order will probably have to be reviewed by SCOTUS.
Are there any lawyers here who could comment on what kind of case it would take to get a SCOTUS “cert” on this issue any time soon?

Anonymous Coward says:

If the author here harbors strong feelings about this case, it does seem a bit odd that he has apparently not expressed his feelings in a letter to the federal district court judge advising the judge that the order is ridiculous and its grant tragic. Why limit his views to just here where nothing can happen when he can go to the source and press for real change?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And you know this has not been done, exactly how?

It does seem a bit odd that you apparently have strong feelings about this case and choose to express them by making snide remarks on a blog, about what the blogger has not done, while not providing any evidence nor reference to what it is that you have done thus demonstrating your superiority complex is warranted.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“…I merely make note of the fact that the author’s expertise in matters such as this is sorely lacking…”

And I’ll merely make note of the fact that you’ve provided absolutely no evidence that your expertise in matters such as this even exists. All you done is make yourself sound like as ass.

If you have an argument to make, make it.

Jasmine Charter (user link) says:

Judges who should be put into stocks...

So judges like this need to be taken to the public square and put into stocks for a few days for blatant abuse of power and breaking their oath to uphold the Constitution.

It’s utter B.S. that this case needs a special gag order when it’s of INFINITELY lower impact that the Travone Martin case, which involved an actual DEATH of a human being… not 40+ characters of a URL posted.

But judges are just as corrupt as everyone else in office and don’t want their dirty laundry aired either. They don’t want people to see the injustice they help to perpetrate for not dismissing ludicrous charges with prejudice.

Anonymous Coward says:

As Masnick like to use MAC address CENSORSHIP, something for him to be proud of. That way he can “HOLD FOR CENSORSHIP” for as long as he likes. To ensure there is not such thing as freedom of speech or freedom from CENSORSHIP or the ABUSE OF POWER, that Masnick has tasted, AND HE LIKES IT !!!!!

Once you have the abuse of power in your blood it’s hard to break the habit !!!! Right Masnick ???

“This comment HELD FOR CENSORSHIP”. MY your ruler Mr Masnick, wielder/abuser of power

Anonymous Coward says:

A gag order is no more an abuse of power as a gag order on free speech or gaging reasonable comments, even ones you don’t agree with..

But it’s ok when mansick gags people he does not agree with, he likes the power, and abuses it when he can, but only to gag comments he does not agree with, or from people he does not like.

That’s the lowest form of abuse of power, “Im going to censor EVERYTHING from this person, because he does not believe everything I say, and catches me out lying too often”..

Nice work Masnick, you’re children will be so proud.

I’m sure your followers fully support your abuse of freedom of speech and censorship..

I guess the power is more valuable to you than your reputation !!!!..

Digger says:

Listen up lawyers...

Get the press to hire an intermediary – someone who isn’t a reporter.

They will bring the reporters queries to you, you answer the intermediary’s questions, they give the answers and other information to the press.

Problem solved, and you followed the letter of the law and the illegal order.

Free speech, freedom of the press – fuck the judge (with a disease ridden, broken glass dildo).

Anonymous Coward says:

The goal of every trial is to seek an impartial trier of fact (jury if the trial will be held before a jury) and trier of law (judge, who may also serve as trier of fact if trial is a bench trial, i.e., trial held without a jury). In any trial, be it civil or criminal, both parties, and this includes the people, as represented by the prosecution in criminal trials, have the legal right to an impartial judge and jury, and a court is fully empowered and required to ensure to the best of his/her ability that impartiality is secured.

Obviously, counsel for the two parties generally want partial judges and juries, partial to their cause. The concept underlying gag order is to prevent as much as possible the opportunity for counsel to inject partiality into the process.

Is a gag order appropriate here? Without the benefit of the entire evidentiary record that was before the judge it is difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at an informed opinion. Because the evidentiary record is generally lacking unless one is sitting in the courtroom hanging on every word and thoughtfully reviewing every piece of evidence presented to the court, using words like tragically and ridiculous should be accompanied with at the very least a brief discussion of the evidence presented to the court when asked to issue a gag order.

While such orders are not the norm, they are not uncommon in cases where counsel or their proxies have demonstrated a willingness to negatively impact the goal of impartiality by what they have been doing outside of the courtroom.

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