Star-Telegram appeals gag order, claiming ‘overbroad’

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    The Fort Worth Star-Telegram filed a motion asking a judge to reconsider a gag order issued last week in a sexual assault case involving three former TCU athletes, according to court records.The three former athletes charged in the case, Lorenzo Labell Jones, 20, Shannon Monroe Behling, 19, and Virgil Allen Taylor, 19, were arrested Oct. 20 on sexual assault charges for an assault police say took place in a Moncrief Hall dorm room.

    The gag order was implemented by Judge Wayne Salvant on Thursday in Tarrant County Criminal District Court No. 2.

    The Star-Telegram filed a motion Friday asking the judge to reconsider the order, calling it “vague and overbroad.”

    The order prohibits anybody from talking to the media about any aspect of the case, closes pretrial hearings and prohibits journalists from reporting anything said during the closed hearings.

    Gwinda Burns, Taylor’s attorney who requested the order, cited “extensive coverage in the media” in her request and said she plans to produce evidence that may impair the possibility of obtaining a fair and unprejudiced jury during pretrial hearings.

    The newspaper’s motion, filed by Star-Telegram attorney Tom Williams of local law firm Haynes and Boone, LLP, says closing pretrial proceedings and barring the media from reporting on them violates the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

    “Closing all pretrial proceedings plainly cannot stand in the face of this unambiguous legislative mandate that all proceedings be open,” Williams wrote in the motion.

    The motion also says the remainder of the order is unconstitutional under the U.S. and Texas constitutions. Imposing the gag order without a hearing may also be unconstitutional, according to the motion.

    “The order is far broader than necessary and was entered without any evidence of its necessity or consideration of other, less intrusive measures to protect the defendants’ rights,” the motion states.

    The motion also says the case involves “broader societal issues about the role of college athletics in society and in American higher education,” and because the order prohibits people from discussing the case, it inhibits discussion about matters of public concern.

    The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office didn’t return phone calls or e-mails Monday seeking comment about the gag order.

    Jones’ attorney, Marcus Norman of Arlington, would not comment on the sexual assault charges Monday, citing the gag order.

    Jones’ name wasn’t listed on the gag order, but Norman said Salvant told him the order also applied to Jones’ case.

    Jones was transferred to the Tarrant County Jail from Mansfield Jail on Thursday where he is being held on $27,000 in bonds, according to jail records. Records show Jones is being held on a $25,000 bond for the sexual assault charges and a $2,000 bond for an outstanding Collin County warrant for a charge of assault/bodily injury.

    Taylor and Behling hired attorneys last week and were released from Mansfield Jail on Oct. 24 after posting $25,000 bail bonds, according to court and jail records.

    Jones is a former member of the football team and Behling and Taylor are former members of the basketball team. Jones and Taylor were released from their teams for unrelated reasons prior to the alleged assault. Behling was released from the basketball team in response to the sexual assault charges.