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The Key West Citizen
Judge denies gag order in Key West parking lot shooter case
By By Ted Lund Keys Citizen,
Judge Mark Wilson denied a motion on Friday, Sept. 15, seeking to impose a gag order on interested parties and to strike a victim’s memorandum filed in the parking lot shooting of 21-year-old Garrett Hughes.
Jerry Ballarotto, the new defense attorney for accused shooter Lloyd Preston Brewer III, argued the motion, which the legal team had filed in August.
He used arguments that Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward used to impose a gag order in the unrelated “Tree House” murder case. Ballarotto’s co-counsel on that case, Cara Higgins, was in the courtroom Friday.
Wilson made it clear from the start of the hearing he wasn’t going to support a gag order unless there were additional violations of extrajudicial comments from Assistant State Attorney Joe Mansfield and the Hughes’ families attorney, Miami civil specialist Stuart Grossman or other parties.
“I have not seen anything since our last April hearing on this subject that violates what I advised counsel in our April 26 hearing,” Wilson said from the bench. “By no means do I want to preclude any future motions, but at this time, I do not feel it is warranted. If you feel that future comments violate my direction, I will be happy to hear on them.”
Brewer’s defense team took issue with quotes made to The Key West Citizen by both Grossman and Mansfield.
Mansfield had said previously that he had watched surveillance footage of the shooting frame-by-frame and that it depicted a cold-blooded murder, while Grossman had referred to Brewer as a “habitual drunkard.”
Based on The Citizen’s reporting, the story has received nationwide attention, and Ballarotto was concerned the media attention would make it difficult for Brewer to receive a fair trial in Key West, but said that he and his client hoped to move forward and try the case in the island city.
Attorneys for The Citizen had filed a motion strenuously opposing the gag order late Thursday, but in the end, did not have to argue.
“We are glad we were able to help out on this,” said TIO Law Firm’s Jim McGuire. “It looks like the judge recognizes that he has to be careful of First Amendment concerns. “
Mansfield was equally pleased with Wilson’s decision.
“The judge found no basis to issue any type of protective order,” said Mainsfield. “The motion was denied.”
Grossman, who attended by Zoom from California, said that he was happy to put the matter behind him and his clients, and hopes to attend the next hearing in person.
“The defendant’s motion was denied,” Grossman said later in a phone call.
Brewer remains in custody without bail at the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island.
Thus far, his defense team has failed to schedule an Arthur hearing to determine if Brewer could be released on bail before his trial.
The defense had previously said it intended to file a change-of-venue motion, but that has yet to come to fruition.
Although the defense claims Brewer acted in self-defense, no Stand Your Ground hearing has been set.
Wilson scheduled the next hearing — a pretrial conference — for Tuesday, Oct. 31, at 9 a.m.