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Galleria arson report to follow gag denial

Defense attorney: Report will bring liability to light
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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At 9 a.m. Friday, the City of Roseville will release information about the police and fire response to the Galleria arson after a Placer County judge refused a gag order Wednesday. In his two-page decision, Larry D. Gaddis wrote that prosecutors – who filed the gag request – didn’t prove the city’s report and other revelations would pose a “danger or serious and imminent threat” to the judicial process. Prosecutor David Broady made the official request Dec. 7, arguing that because of excessive media coverage, “information about the case would make it difficult to impanel an impartial jury and would tend to prevent a fair trial,” according to Gaddis’ ruling. Broady said by phone Thursday, “We believe that all the facts will come out through the court of law, not through the court of public opinion.” While Gaddis agreed that the small size of the county made jury selection a constant challenge, he took issue with the District Attorney’s office’s failure to elaborate on harmful information. “Unfortunately, the people were unwilling or unable to provide any of that factual information to the court for evaluation,” Gaddis wrote. But Broady said he gave as much detail as he could without divulging the contents of the city’s report draft. If anyone should appear to want a fair trial for arson suspect Alexander Piggee, it’s his attorney, Johnny Lewis Griffin III. Yet Griffin has opposed any gag because he believes disclosures are inevitable and wouldn’t hinder justice. “Here’s the view: it’s going to come out,” he said Thursday after picking up a copy of Gaddis’ ruling. The true target of the gag request, Griffin said, was to stifle the city’s after-action report, which is expected to explain, among other things, why sprinklers were turned off during the $55 million fire Oct. 21. Broady denied that claim, saying his office’s only goal is to seek justice. He added that in his 15 years of prosecution, this is the first case he remembers in which the defense has opposed a gag order. In explaining his uncommon position, Griffin suggested that transparency would reveal that others, not just Piggee, are liable for the catastrophe. What’s more, a gag order might prevent Griffin from setting the record straight when questionable details arise throughout the case. “If I’m not in a position to comment … then that will result in an unfair trial,” said Griffin, who has seen a report draft but would not comment on it. Piggee will next appear in court Feb. 8, following the completion of a mental evaluation expected Jan. 20 or 21. Check back for updates on this developing story. Lien Hoang can be reached at lienh@goldcountrymedia.com.