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Gag order set in case of Duluth police officer accused of assault | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Published October 05, 2013, 12:00 AM

Gag order set in case of Duluth police officer accused of assault

The judge in the trial of a onetime active-duty Duluth police officer accused of assaulting a man in a wheelchair already has granted a change of venue request in the case, but went one step further Friday by issuing a gag order.

By: Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune

The judge in the trial of a onetime active-duty Duluth police officer accused of assaulting a man in a wheelchair already has granted a change of venue request in the case, but went one step further Friday by issuing a gag order.

State District Court Judge John DeSanto granted a request from the prosecution that prevents attorneys, witnesses, court personnel and defendant Richard Jouppi from talking to members of the media during the trial.

Defense attorney Fred Bruno did not dispute the motion.

DeSanto cited substantial media coverage in his ruling, saying he was concerned about coverage that jurors may see. In May, DeSanto cited similar reasons in moving the trial from Duluth to Pine City. The weeklong trial is scheduled to begin there Nov. 18.

Mark Anfinson, a Minneapolis-based lawyer who represents the Minnesota Newspaper Association and various other news organizations, said gag orders aren’t uncommon in high-profile cases.

“That’s become a fairly common practice,” he said. “I think it’s become more common over the past 10 or 12 years. There’s probably a number of

factors: the 24-hour news cycle, the intensity of coverage getting stronger. Courts are trying to keep some lid on the extracurricular comments.”

While such orders may limit freedom of speech for trial participants and hinder journalists’ rights to gather information, those rights need to be weighed against the defendant’s right to a fair trial, Anfinson said.

“Courts almost always say that the right to a fair trial outweighs the First Amendment rights,” Anfinson said. “The media can get information other ways.”

Jouppi faces charges of fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors, stemming from a Sept. 21, 2012, incident at the Duluth Detoxification Center.

Surveillance video showed 50-year-old Anthony Jon Jackson striking Jouppi in the face and Jouppi responding by striking the man in the head several times and throwing him to the ground. Bruno has contended that Jouppi acted in self-defense and according to his training.

via Gag order set in case of Duluth police officer accused of assault | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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