- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The man accused of killing a University of Vermont student from Arlington, Va., is asking a judge to dismiss the charges because an FBI agent wrote a newspaper opinion piece about the case that referred to the suspect as “evil,” a “sexual predator” and a “two-legged hyena.”

In the opinion piece, which appeared Wednesday in the weekly newspaper Seven Days, the agent wrote anonymously and described his personal reaction during the search for the man accused of killing 21-year-old Michelle Gardner-Quinn.

David Sleigh, the attorney for suspect Brian Rooney, filed a motion Wednesday after the article appeared. He said the article made it impossible for Mr. Rooney to get a fair trial.

“Agents of the state have deliberately disseminated highly inflammatory and prejudicial comments to the press,” Mr. Sleigh said in a three-page motion.

Mr. Rooney has pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated murder for the Oct. 7 abduction, assault and killing of Miss Gardner-Quinn after the two met by chance in downtown Burlington.

If convicted, Mr. Rooney, 36, of Richmond, Vt., could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I view this release as an unauthorized release,” said Burlington Police Chief Thomas Tremblay.

The story was bylined “An Anonymous Cop,” but FBI spokesman Paul Holstein said the author was an FBI agent.

“We’re not happy with it, and we’ll take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Mr. Holstein said. “We take it very seriously when we have an unauthorized media contact, and it also is an issue because we have a policy that we do not discuss ongoing investigations or prosecutions.”

The article describes the agent’s response to the search for Miss Gardner-Quinn and then the efforts to find her killer. Mr. Rooney is not named in the article, but it’s clear he is the subject.

Mr. Sleigh contends the article, as well as an appearance of a Burlington police officer on a national cable news program, made it impossible for Mr. Rooney to receive a fair trial.

Seven Days co-publisher and editor Pamela Polston said the paper granted the author’s request for anonymity after verifying his identity. She defended the paper’s decision to publish the piece.

“We stand behind the freedom of expression of every citizen, including that of law-enforcement officers, and, like all newspapers, offer a forum to our readers for that expression,” she said.

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