Judge bars release of dashboard video from deadly firetruck theft

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Judge bars release of dashboard video from deadly firetruck theft

Published Saturday, March 10, 2012   |  589 Words  |  

A judge has barred authorities from releasing video from the dashboard of a Port Royal fire truck allegedly stolen last month by a Sumter man accused of using it to ram several vehicles and kill a pedestrian in Beaufort.

State Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen issued a temporary restraining order March 2 preventing county law enforcement agencies, fire departments, the S.C. Highway Patrol or the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office from releasing video from the fire truck or any police cars that responded to the Feb. 24 incident, according to court records.

However, an attorney for one of the television stations seeking access to the video said Mullen may have done so without giving all of the affected parties a chance to argue against it.

The order was granted in response to a motion filed the same day by Beaufort County's chief public defender Trasi Campbell, who is representing Marine Pvt. Kalvin Hunt, 26.

Hunt was charged last week with murder in connection with the death of pedestrian Justin Miller, 28, of Port Royal, and 10 other offenses related to the theft of the firetruck and six wrecks on Ribaut Road.

In her motion, Campbell claimed the video's release to any of the several media outlets that filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the footage could jeopardize Hunt's ability to receive a fair trial in Beaufort County.

"The release of these videos ... would only improperly serve to inflame the passions of the public, damage the defendant in his pursuit of a fair trial, and further increase the hostility ... toward the defendant by members of the potential jury pool in this case," Campbell wrote. "While the public has a desire to know, the defendant has an absolute and constitutional right to a fair trial."

Carl Muller, a Greenville attorney representing WCBD in Charleston, said he does not believe the media and the public was given adequate notice of Campbell's motion or of the subsequent restraining order.

"The press and public should have been given prior notice to appear and oppose the (restraining order)," Muller said Saturday. "When we found out about it, we immediately requested a hearing to do just that because we think this is wrong."

A hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday where Muller and other attorneys will ask Mullen to lift the order, he said.

Attempts Saturday to reach Campbell or 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone, who joined in Campbell's motion, were unsuccessful.

Hunt remains in the Beaufort County Detention Center after waiving his right to a bond hearing on the murder charge last week.

His bond on 10 other charges related to the crash was set at $500,000.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

Related content:

A week after fatal crash, shock wearing off, officials reviewing incident, March 3, 2012

Man accused of stealing Port Royal firetruck waives right to bond hearing, March 2, 2012

Port Royal firetruck-theft suspect convicted of assault last April by court martial, March 1, 2012

Man accused of joyride in stolen Port Royal firetruck hit with murder charge, Feb. 28, 2012