ORLANDO, Fla. — A judge has barred a television station from broadcasting news reports about what it found in 80 boxes of documents that belonged to a political consultant at the center of an election-law scandal.
WKMG-TV cannot report about the boxes' contents until the courts decide whether the station properly obtained them, Orange Circuit Judge Rom Powell ruled on Feb. 2. He said the broadcasts, scheduled to begin today, would destroy any privacy rights consultant Doug Guetzloe might have.
The station says it received the documents from a man who bought them for $10 at auction after Guetzloe failed to pay his rent at a self-storage unit where they had been kept.
Henry Maldonado, WKMG's vice president and general manager, said the station's attorneys expect to have Powell's order lifted in time to air the reports as scheduled.
"I'm confident we'll prevail and I'm confident the First Amendment will prevail," Maldonado said.
Guetzloe and his attorney Fred O'Neal maintain the documents are still legally Guetzloe's and that they were auctioned in error. Some of the documents are medical records and protected correspondence with attorneys, they argued.
"I was optimistic, but this was a pleasant surprise," Guetzloe said of the ruling. He faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly violating campaign-disclosure laws relating to an attack ad on a suburban candidate for mayor.
Guetzloe, who hosts a local radio show billed as "The Voice of the People," has also been criticized because the Orlando Magic paid him $200,000 not to oppose plans for their planned new arena. Also, a Kissimmee resort gave him $87,000 when it was pursuing public money to expand a convention center, and the local expressway authority paid him $107,500 to evaluate opposition to toll increases despite his heavy criticism of the agency.
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee, said court rulings barring news organizations from publishing or broadcasting are rare.
"Generally speaking, government cannot prohibit publication of information that's legally obtained," she said.