LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A state district judge rejected an attempt by a magistrate who goes on trial today to stop the Las Cruces newspaper from publishing a weekend story about the trial.
State District Judge Silvia E. Cano-Garcia, ruling from the bench after a 25-minute emergency hearing on April 22, denied the motion filed by Las Cruces attorney Joe Arrieta, who represents Magistrate Reuben Galvan.
Arrieta's motion contended the planned weekend story in the Las Cruces Sun-News would contain no new information and that its timing "only seeks to prejudice the jury against defendant and is not newsworthy."
Arrieta did not return a call from the Associated Press to his law office after the hearing.
Albuquerque attorney Jim Dines, who represented the newspaper, said he argued that the state Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court had ruled against prior restraints on the press and "there was no basis to find that that presumption was overcome" in Galvan's case.
"We are pleased with the judge's decision," said Sun-News Editor Jim Lawitz. "The court has reaffirmed the press' First Amendment privilege and has deemed the motion as a prior restraint, which of course is illegal."
Newspapers commonly run stories just before trials to let readers know the trial is starting, he said.
Bob Johnson, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said he also was pleased by Cano-Garcia's decision.
"It was such a blatant attempt to violate the First Amendment that I couldn't imagine that the judge would do anything else but deny that motion," he said.
Johnson said it made no difference if a story contained previously published information.
"A story is strictly a matter of news judgment, editorial judgment," he said. "It's not for a defense attorney to try to suppress news."
Galvan has been charged with one count each of criminal sexual penetration and demanding or receiving a bribe by a public officer or employee after an incident last August. He has said he had consensual sex with a woman he met in a bar. However, the woman told police she was forced to have sex with Galvan in his car in exchange for his dismissing a battery charge against her estranged husband in Magistrate Court.
Arrieta earlier sought a change of venue. Cano-Garcia sent out questionnaires to potential jurors to determine whether Galvan could receive a fair trial in Las Cruces. After the responses came back, Arrieta and Wright agreed he could get a fair trial there.
Arrieta's motion contended any article published by the Sun-News before the trial would "undo all the court and attorneys' efforts at ensuring a fair trial in this county."
Galvan has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the trial and the resolution of a complaint brought by the state Judicial Standards Commission, which could result in Galvan being removed from office.