Federal courts beat: Newspaper fights over secrecy in case of Montevideo suspect
- Article by: Randy Furst
- August 19, 2013 - 5:36 PM
While the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Federal Public Defender’s office battle over the fate of Buford Rogers, a second, quieter struggle has been playing out in federal court over how much information will be disclosed to the public.
The FBI says Rogers, 24, is a terrorist even though he has not been charged with terrorism. He allegedly discussed a plot to blow up the Montevideo, Minn., police station, but a grand jury did not indict him for that. It charged him instead with being a felon in possession of a firearm and with three counts of possessing “unregistered destructive devices.”
Rogers’ attorney, Andrew Mohring, filed a series of motions last month, and asked that their content be sealed. U.S. District Judge Magistrate Jeanne Graham, expressed doubts, but sealed them anyway. The Star Tribune filed a motion to unseal them.
Durng a hearing on the issue, Mohring urged it be conducted outside the presence of the public. Graham agreed and the media and members of the public were escorted from the courtroom, including Star Tribune attorney John Borger.
Afterward, the public and media were invited back in, and Graham announced she was unsealing the motions. They contained nothing newsworthy. Borger filed a motion asking the transcript be made public.
Mohring hasn’t discussed the case publicly, but a former federal public defender, Dan Scott explained his concerns.
“The interest of the Star Tribune is to produce news stories and to let the chips fall where they may,” he says. “[Mohring’s] problem is whether he can draw a fair jury that hasn’t been infected by the publicity. They come in already thinking they know the case and this guy is a terrorist and did all of these things for which he’s not even charged.”
U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ordered the transcript unsealed last Thursday, agreeing with the newspaper. She said the transcript “contains no names or information of a sensitive nature” and there was nothing in the transcript that “overcomes the long-standing presumption of the public’s right of access to the court.”
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382
© 2013 Star Tribune