Judge Won't Issue Gag in Mall Arson Prosecution

A judge has refused to issue a gag order sought by a district attorney because he could find no threat to a fair trial for an accused shopping mall arsonist; the DA's request for the order had led city officials to hold off releasing their postmortem on the response of police and firefighters to the blaze—a report now due for release shortly.

As reported by Ed Fletcher for The Sacramento Bee,

In rejecting a call for a gag order in the Westfield Galleria mall fire case, Placer County Judge Larry Gaddis expressed "great concerns about the alleged necessity" of an order, which would have blocked Roseville from releasing a report detailing the fire response.

"The court finds that the people have failed to meet their burden of proof to demonstrate that the gag order is needed," Gaddis wrote in his three page response.

Gaddis said the Placer County District Attorney's office did not demonstrate that "clear and present" danger exists to ensuring a fair trail, the gag order was overly broad and that there were less restrictive options available to mitigate any damage.

Senior Deputy District Attorney David Broady had argued that in the smallish community of Placer County, the gag order was needed to help him find and jury untainTed by media coverage.

The motion for a gag order was opposed by defendantAlexander Piggee's lawyer and The Bee.

Broady said he respects the ruling and will do his best to win the case.

After the request for a gag order was filed, Roseville officials held off making public an after-action report analyzing the police and fire department's handling of the Oct. 21 incident. Media reports now say the city's report is expect to be out in the next 24 hours.

Questions have been raised about why the mall sprinklers were shut off before the fire was extinguished.

"There is clearly no effort to cover up anything," Broady said. "This was all about getting a fair jury."

Piggee is facing five felony counts related in the $55 million mall fire.

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