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Guilty Plea in Jane Doe Case Stopped When Inner City Press Entered Now Travel Sealed

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

EDNY COURTHOUSE, May 10 – There was a US versus Jane Doe case listed on October 4, 2022 at noon before U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Judge Dora Lizette Irizarry. Inner City Press, now covering EDNY, went to cover it. 

 There was no one else in the courtroom gallery. Judge Irizarry said, Before I accept your guilty plea I have to ask a series of questions --  

Then the defense lawyer, Jeremy Schneider who Inner City Press has covered in SDNY most recently in US v. Raji, said, "May I approach?"  

There followed a long sidebar, the second part of which was with a court reporter.   A man from the prosecutors' table came and asked Inner City Press for I.D., which it provided. In fact, it is covering the US v. Barrack (and US v. Zottola and other) trials in EDNY. 

  The sidebar broke up, and they decided to adjourn the already-begun guilty plea. Inner City Press jotted down the date: November 2, and intended to attend to cover it.

But then on October 26 the EDNY prosecutors filed a letter: "Dear Judge Irizarry: A change of plea hearing is scheduled for November 2, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. in the above-referenced matter. The government respectfully submits in a separate filing a motion and proposed order to close the courtroom for the above-described proceeding. For the reasons stated in the motion, the government requests that the motion and any order entered by the Court be filed under seal."

The motion, and the reasons given to seal, were themselves sealed. Judge Irizarry set a 9:30 am hearing on November 1. Inner City Press went, and from the podium cited Press-Enterprise II, and after the Court did, US v. Alcantara.

Afterward the Court docketed: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Dora Lizette Irizarry: Public Motion Hearing as to Jane Doe 22CR269 held on 11/1/2022 re [13] MOTION to Seal November 2, 2022 Proceeding filed by USA. Appearances: AUSAs Victor Zapana and Laura Zuckerwise; Jeremy Schneider for Defendant. The Court excused the defendant's presence for this hearing. Government and defense counsel jointly move for closure for reasons stated. Statements of journalist Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press heard in opposition to closure. The Court grants the motion for closure for reasons stated; written order to be entered. (Court Reporter Linda Daneczyk.)"

Then the Order: "Journalist Mathew [sic] Russell Lee of Inner City Press was present at the hearing and was heard in opposition to the motion. It is noted that, after the hearing, a minute entry was made on the public docket memorializing the fact that the hearing was held along with the Court’s ruling on the motion that is formalized by this Order. Upon due consideration of the sealed joint motion by the government and defendant and the arguments made in opposition by Mr. Lee on behalf of the press and public, the Court finds that:

1. There is a substantial probability that holding a change of plea hearing in this matter that is open to the public would prejudice a compelling interest of the government in maintaining the integrity of significant government activities entitled to confidentiality, including an ongoing investigation of serious crimes and public safety, that overrides the public’s qualified First Amendment right of access to such proceedings.

2. No reasonable alternatives to closure of the courtroom exist that adequately can protect the compelling interests that would be prejudiced by holding the proceeding identified above in public. Accordingly, pursuant to United States v. Alcantara, 396 F.3d. 189, 200 n.9 (2d Cir. 2005) and United States v. John Doe, 63 F.3d 121 (2d Cir. 1995), it is hereby ORDERED:

1. That the joint motion to close the courtroom during the change of plea hearing to be held in this case, and to seal the transcript of said proceeding along with any other orders or minute entries related to said proceeding is GRANTED; and

2. That, in order to preserve the public’s qualified First Amendment right of access to court proceedings and to tailor the closure of the courtroom and sealing of related documents to minimize their impact on the public’s qualified First Amendment right of access: (a) the government shall disclose the transcript as required by Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972), 18 U.S.C. § 3500, and/or Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, with advance notice to defendant and upon obtaining authorization from this Court or a court of competent jurisdiction;

and the government, as well as the defendant, shall move this Court or a court of competent jurisdiction to unseal the transcript of the change of plea proceeding, along with any orders and minute entries entered in connection with said proceeding and to substitute the defendant’s true name for “Jane Doe” in the caption, when the prejudice to the parties’ interests no longer outweighs the public’s qualified right to access.

3. The parties joint request that this Order be sealed is denied and it shall be posted on the public docket of this case."

At least there's that. But who decides when "
the prejudice to the parties’ interests no longer outweighs the public’s qualified right to access"?

Full Order on DocumentCloud here.

On May 10, 2023, first filing in a while in the case - a request to travel for Jane Doe - but the request is entirely sealed. Watch this site.


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