Attorneys for former St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed and his son Steven have asked a federal judge to move or delay the pair’s trial — currently set to start April 18 — to allow media heat to die down after a recent revelation that prosecutors plan to introduce evidence from the dating website Sugardaddie.com.
The formal motion came one day after defense attorneys Richard Simmons and Glenn Burns broached the idea during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon. Fallon did not rule Tuesday, but he did exclude the public and reporters from a hearing related to the Sugardaddie.com material.
Last week, Fallon agreed to seal the government motion that addressed Sugardaddie.com after reporters asked attorneys about it. That sealing did not come quickly enough to prevent stories in The New Orleans Advocate and on WWL-TV.
In their motion to move or delay the trial, Simmons and Burns said the media coverage has publicized facts that they expect Fallon to rule inadmissible at the trial.
“The dissemination of this information into the jury pool is prejudicial and necessitates a change of venue, or, alternatively, a one-week continuance of the trial,” the motion says.
The motion includes copies of stories in The New Orleans Advocate and on WWL-TV, as well as others on Nola.com and a reporter’s Twitter page.
Prosecutors replied with scorn in a response filed less than two hours later, calling the defendants’ motion “last-ditch efforts to delay the realities of trial.”
What’s more, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg wrote, by filing such a motion, the defense was perpetuating the very coverage it is complaining about.
Because Reed was a public figure, his trial will be covered regardless of when and where it occurs, Ginsberg wrote.
“Defendants continue to encourage such coverage by invoking hyperbole and broadcasting over-the-top allegations,” he said.
He said the court already is surveying proposed jury instructions that should take into account exposure to media coverage, and delaying the trial could cause undue hardship.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Thursday morning.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.