LOS ANGELES (AP) — A U.S. judge lifted an order Tuesday that required the Los Angeles Times to remove information from an article about a court document that was meant to be kept from the public, reversing a decision that had raised concerns about freedom of the press.
Judge John Walter said he initially wasn’t sure if the newspaper had legally gained access to a sealed plea agreement and feared for the defendant’s safety, the Times reported . Walter said an investigation found that the newspaper accessed the document because it was inadvertently posted in an online database.
The plea agreement that the Times wrote about Saturday involved former city of Glendale police Detective John Balian, who pleaded guilty to bribery, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators about whether he has connections with the Mexican Mafia and Armenian organized crime.
The judge said his initial decision was based on fears for Balian’s safety. The newspaper complied with the order to change the story but filed an emergency motion Sunday for it to be lifted.
“We believe that once material is in the public record, it is proper and appropriate to publish it if it is newsworthy,” said Norman Pearlstine, executive editor of the newspaper.
Constitutional scholars who followed the case called it unusual for a judge to issue such an order.