After being temporarily silenced briefly by a judge, the Florida media are again reporting details from statements given by four juvenile suspects in the case of a rape at Tampa middle school locker room. The teens have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault. Prosecutors charged them as adults and say they used a hockey stick and broom handle in their attacks against a teammate after a scuffle on the football field.
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys wanted the teens’ statements made public. A Hillsborough judge last Thursday agreed with their request to ban media outlets from publishing stories based on the materials. WFLA-Ch. 8 and the Tampa Tribune posted a story that remained on their Web site, tbo.com, for more than a hour before Circuit Judge Emmett Battles ordered them to remove it. On Friday, Battles reversed himself after hearing arguments from attorneys and researching case law. He said the issue presented a conflict between the First Amendment right to a free press and the rights of defendants to a fair trial.