Attorney claims prosecutor violated gag order

Michelle Park

Prosecutor may be held in contempt

A hearing this month will decide whether Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci violated the gag order issued Thursday by the Portage County Court of Common Pleas. The hearing is set to begin 9 a.m. Feb. 17 in the Portage County Courthouse.

The hearing was scheduled after the attorney representing triple-homicide suspect James Trimble filed a motion for contempt Friday, alleging Vigluicci had violated the gag order.

Gag orders require attorneys and witnesses to refrain from discussing certain cases, said David Ochmann, Kent State associate counsel. They are used to help ensure fair trials for defendants.

In the motion he filed, Dennis Lager, Trimble’s attorney and Portage County public defender, alleged that Vigluicci violated the order when he spoke to a reporter from the Record Courier Thursday.

Judge John Enlow of the Court of Common Pleas declined to comment on the motion, and phone calls placed to Vigluicci and Lager were not immediately returned.

The gag order bans comment from Vigluicci, Lager and members of their staffs involved in Trimble’s case. It was requested on Thursday by Vigluicci.

According to the motion for contempt filed by Lager, a copy of the order was provided to Vigluicci “at or near 10:30 a.m. by the court’s bailiff” on Thursday, and he spoke to a reporter “at or near 4 p.m.” that day.

Vigluicci told the reporter he requested the gag order “to put an end to pre-trial publicity and reserve the integrity of my jury … (and that it is) not unusual in capital cases” to ask for such orders. He also made comments about a previous gag order issued in the January 1996 trial of Tyrone Nolling, who was convicted of double homicide and currently awaits execution.

According to the motion for contempt, such comments serve only to add additional publicity to Trimble’s case and prejudice to the accused. The comments demonstrate “not only of Prosecutor Vigluicci’s contempt for this court and its authority, but also of Prosecutor Vigluicci’s own hypocrisy,” and his reference to a capital case which resulted in a death verdict “can only serve to influence and taint prospective jurors in this cause who now have read Prosecutor Vigluicci’s remarks.”

Jurors have yet to be selected for Trimble’s case. The suspect has been indicted on 12 counts of attempted murder for firing at police and on 10 additional counts, including three of aggravated murder for the deaths of Renee Bauer, her son Dakota and Kent State student Sarah Positano. The other counts include aggravated burglary, kidnapping and felonious assault.

Contact public affairs reporter Michelle Park at [email protected].