- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014

WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) - A Utah judge is refusing a newspaper’s request to unseal court testimony against a man accused of kidnapping and raping a Herriman teenager in a high profile case that touched off a massive search for the girl in January 2013.

Third District Judge Bruce Lubeck admitted in court on Friday he didn’t follow the law earlier when he closed part of Angel Garcia’s preliminary hearing, the Deseret News reported in Saturday’s editions (https://tinyurl.com/l2zgxbe)

Nevertheless, he refused to release a transcript of the hearing, saying it must be kept secret to protect the interests of the teen victim.

A lawyer on the legal team working with the newspaper says they are considering an appeal.

Release of the transcript is the only viable substitute after the press and public were barred from a proceeding that should have been open, said Jeff Hunt, a First Amendment lawyer.

“The public and the press have a compelling interest in accessing pretrial criminal hearings and records to promote public accountability and confidence in the system and its results,” Hunt said Friday.

Garcia, 56, originally was charged with kidnapping, obstructing justice and reckless endangerment in the January 2013 disappearance of the girl. For two days, more than 1,000 volunteers searched for her until she was located after she called her family from South Jordan.

She left her home to meet Garcia, who investigators say kept her from police as they searched his home. Garcia insists the girl was there voluntarily.

Prosecutors filed 10 additional charges on the day of his preliminary hearing, including four counts of sodomy on a child, two counts of rape of a child and four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Prosecutors allege he had been sexually abusing the girl as far back as 2008.

Soon after the new information was revealed in the amended charges, the judge closed the hearing, preventing the public from hearing the girl’s testimony about the alleged crimes. After the girl was done testifying, Lubeck decided he erred in closing the hearing but declined to release the portion of the transcript that was closed.

Lubeck concluded that while the transcript’s release would not prevent Garcia from receiving a fair trial, the decisions the girl made could cause embarrassment and need to remain private.

“The court feels safe in finding and concluding … that no therapist would come to court and testify it would be good for (the girl)” to have her conduct made public, he wrote.

The girl’s name was publicized at the time as the target of the search for a missing teenager. The Associated Press, Deseret News and other media have not named her since charges were filed that identified her as a victim of sex crimes.


Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com

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