Gag order in Rosfeld case joins other high-profile, court-ordered silences
Gag orders aren’t unheard of in high-profile cases like the one involving an East Pittsburgh police officer charged with shooting and killing an unarmed teenager.
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket barred attorneys, witnesses and anyone associated with the trial from speaking to the media about Officer Michael Rosfeld’s homicide trial in the shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II.
The prosecution requested the gag order in response to comments Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey, made to the media after a court hearing this month. Bicket approved it late Wednesday.
Bicket had only had the case for a few hours when he ruled on the gag order. Judge Anthony Mariani, the original trial judge on the case, recused himself Wednesday morning.
Other high-profile cases have had gag orders.
An Allegheny County judge imposed a gag order in the trial of Cheron Thomas and Robert Thomas, who are accused of killing five adults and an unborn child in a Wilkinsburg backyard more than a year after the March 2016 mass shooting.
Attorneys on both sides of the case requested the gag order, which applied to attorneys, Cheron and Thomas, the families of victims, witnesses and staff at the Allegheny County Jail.
Cheron and Thomas are still awaiting trial in the case.
A gag order remained in place in the case of Leon Ford even after a jury acquitted him in 2014.
Ford was charged with assaulting a Pittsburgh police officer during a 2012 traffic stop in which he was shot and paralyzed by police. The prosecution requested the gag after a protest by Ford supporters raised concerns about additional media coverage and a tainted jury pool.
Ford’s attorney, Fred Rabner, asked for the gag order to be lifted after the verdict, saying the decision was of local and national importance. Judge Donald E. Machen disagreed and denied the request.
A jury acquitted one officer and deadlocked in a decision against another in a civil trial over the shooting. The city of Pittsburgh settled with Ford for $5.5 million.
Torturing, killing of Jennifer Daugherty
A Westmoreland County judge denied a request for a gag order in the case of six people accused of torturing and killing Jennifer Daugherty in Greensburg in 2010.
The attorney for one of the suspects asked for the gag order because he felt attorneys for other suspects talked too much to the media and were hurting his client’s case.
All six were convicted or pleaded guilty to the crimes.
A gag order was imposed in the case of Richard Poplawski, who was convicted of killing three Pittsburgh police officers in 2009.
However, an Allegheny County judge denied a request from prosecutors to extend the order — originally imposed on attorneys, police, witnesses and others connected with the case — to then-Gov. Ed Rendell. The governor had commented that he would sign a death warrant for Poplawski “without a minute’s thought” even before prosecutors had decided to seek the death penalty.
Poplawski was sentenced to death. His execution was stayed in 2017 as he seeks to overturn his conviction.
Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Aaron at 412-336-8448, [email protected] or via Twitter @tinynotebook.