S.C. judge lifts prior restraint on newspaper

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

GREENWOOD, S.C. — A judge lifted an order yesterday that had barred a Charleston newspaper from publishing recordings of phone calls state Sen. Randy Scott made from his jail cell after he was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.

The Post and Courier reported that Circuit Judge James Williams rejected arguments yesterday by Scott's attorneys that publishing the tapes would keep the Summerville Republican from getting a fair trial.

The newspaper also reported that its attorney, John Kerr, argued during yesterday’s hearing that the restraining order should be lifted based on a state Supreme Court ruling that establishes a three-pronged balancing test for determining whether a prior restraint is justified.

Kerr also said that political blogs had already published the recordings.

“The cat is already out of the bag,” Kerr was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The judge agreed with Kerr’s arguments and acknowledged that the tapes were already available on the Internet. The newspaper reported that Williams “said there's no way he can prevent the public from seeing the information if it's already out there.”

The newspaper posted the calls to its Web site last night. It had obtained the April 19 recordings last week from the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office through a Freedom of Information Act request.

On the tapes, Scott can be heard asking his wife to tell Magistrate Michael Londergan, a relative, to get to the jail right away to conduct a bond hearing.

He also told her that he wasn't drunk when he was pulled over by a Dorchester County deputy.

Scott's attorneys have maintained that their client is innocent and the arrest was politically motivated.

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