A push to open court in LDC Case
Updated: Tuesday, March 4 2014, 03:08 PM EST
Rochester, N.Y. --- A public corruption case involving taxpayer-funded contracts that total more $300 million could last months, if not years. 13WHAM News is pressing the judge to allow video cameras inside the courtroom so the community can watch what goes on in this case.
13WHAM News made this application in open court on Friday.
The Attorney General’s Office opposed the application but did not state why and has refused to comment on the position they took.
Lawyers for the four defendants also opposed the motion and offered some reasons as to why. Pre-trial publicity and the potential impact on the jury pool is one reason expressed. Legal strategy, that they did not wish to discuss, was another reason.
The presiding judge is Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert Noonan of Genesee County. Noonan was appointed to handle this case in part because his position is in a neighboring county and a neighboring Judicial District avoids any appearance of impropriety.
Currently Judge Noonan’s court access ruling allows for a single still photographer (from Gannett’s Democrat and Chronicle) to serve as a pool camera that allows other media outlets to access.
On Friday in court, 13WHAM News reinforced its application for video camera coverage. In a statement read in open court 13WHAM News made a few points clear to the court:
The taxpayer investment in this case not only exceeds the $300 million value of the two Local Development Corporation (LDC) contracts, but also the expense incurred by taxpayer-funded law enforcement (AG’s Office) and auditing agencies. (Comptroller’s Office)
13WHAM invited the Attorney General’s Office to join in our application for video cameras in court an added transparency while pointing out that the agency’s “employers” are in fact the taxpayers who are, in many ways, the victims in this case.
13WHAM also noted that defense counsel has spent a great deal of time since the November arraignment of their clients expressing their concerns about damaged reputations as a result of video images showing the “perp walk” to the courthouse. We invited defense counsel to offer their clients an opportunity to disseminate different video images to the community that would include their clients in suits, sitting next to competent counsel, and innocent of charges until proven otherwise.
Lastly, 13WHAM News pointed out that the hard working taxpayers of the community who help “keep the lights on” in this courtroom ought to have the opportunity to view the proceedings that take place in their courtroom.
Judge Noonan has said he will rule on 13WHAM’s application in the coming weeks.
Comments from defense lawyers Michael Schiano (representing defendant Dan Lynch) and David Rothenberg (representing defendant John Maggio) are below.
Schiano: "Everytime I see this case on TV I see my client being walked across the concourse for arraignment and for processing and I sort of agree with your comment that it would be great to have pictures of these guys in court in suits but again these guys all have private lives, they have families, they all have things they have to protect and to have their pictures out there is damaging to their reputation at this point.”
Reporter question: So you would prefer the view of the perp walk?
Schiano Reply: “I don't prefer anything but in terms of what's going on right now, eventually we'll see what the court decides if the court decides that the cameras will be there gavel to gavel we'll support that decision.”
Rothenberg: "If we're going to try this case we're going to need a panel of jurors that are not pre-disposed and I'm just concerned that all the publicity is going to make that a very difficult process. I'm not trying to interfere with your job, I'm a big supporter of the First Amendment I think the First Amendment is a good thing for everybody in this country but when you are involved in a criminal trial you have to balance First Amendment considerations with Sixth Amendment considerations which is that everybody gets a fair trial, a fair and public trial. You can come and report on the trial but the concern that when we bring jurors in for jury selection they don't have their minds made up already. The more publicity, the harder it is to do that I'm sorry.”