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State attorney seeks gag order in case against Carroll's accuser

Alleging that attorneys for Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's accuser are attempting to "try this case in the media," the state attorney in Leon County is asking the judge for a gag order that seals file and bars lawyers from talking to the media in the case against Carroll's former aide.

"Closure is necessary to prevent a serious and imminent threat to the administration of justice,'' wrote state attorney Willie Meggs in a five-page motion filed today in the Second Judical Circuit. Download MotionToPreclude.6.1.12

"If counsel for the defendant continues to discuss with the media the facts surrounding this case and their anticipated trial arguments, this fundamental right will be placed in jeopardy,'' he wrote. "To date a google search of 'Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll and Carletha Cole' renders well over 235 news reports, many of which contain information provided by counsel for the defendant."

Carroll's former aide, Carletha Cole, has been charged with sharing an illegal recording with a Jacksonville newspaper reporter. In response, Cole's attorney, Stephen Webster, has responded in court papers by hurling charges that Cole was fired because she allegedly encountered Carroll in an "uncompromising position" with another aide and suggested both attempted to cover up an arson attempt in Cole's office. 

"The efforts on the part of the defense to try this case in the media include an on camera interviews given by Mr. Webster to a local news station on at least two separate occasions within the last week,'' the motion states.

The governor's office has accused Webster of trying to divert attention from the criminal investigation. Carroll has denied all allegations and responded with loaded language of her own, telling television reporters "usually black women that look like me don't engage in relationships like that."

Meggs previously expressed his displeasure with the media attention Cole's lawyers have sought and last week told the Herald/Times that he was considering imposing additional charges against her, alleging that she was responsible for the illegal tape recording and suggesting "This is war."

Steve Andrews, Webster's partner, notes that Meggs has also talked to the press on this case and others.

"Willie's the one who said its a war,'' Andrews said. "We're prepared to use every arrow in our quiver. A gag order would violate Cole's First Amendment rights and ours."

The judge has scheduled a hearing in the case tomorrow.