Freddie Grant (Image: Lexington County Detention Center)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A circuit court judge has denied a request for a gag order in the ongoing case of a missing teenage girl from Columbia.
Fifth Circuit Judge DeAndrea Benjamin issued her ruling on a motion made by the attorney for 52-year-old Freddie Grant. Grant's lawyer, Fielding Pringle, had called for a gag order against Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott for comments he has made on the disappearance of 15-year-old Gabbiee Swainson.
But in her ruling, Judge Benjamin said Grant's side did not show there was a likelihood of prejudice in a potential trial, and characterized this method to reduce the chance of bias as "overbroad" and "extreme." She also said it would violate the First Amendment. LINK: Read the Full Decision
Grant is currently booked on a federal ammunitions charge and is being held at the Lexington County Detention Center. While Grant is not formally charged in Swainson's disappearance, Lott says he has a warrant for Grant's arrest on one count of kidnapping, and has placed a detainer on him over at the Lexington jail.
Lott has held several news conferences updating the case, and implicating Grant in the crime. At times he's referred to Grant as a "monster" and the person who can tell them where the girl is.
Grant's attorney, Fielding Pringle, said Lott's comments demonized her client, and would hurt his chances for a fair trial. Lott's attorney, however, said the gag request was too broad and violated free speech rules, saying the sheriff has a right to update the public on a missing person's case.