First Amendment triumphs in court

Steamboat Today (Steamboat Springs): District Judge Shelley Hill on Thursday ruled that a Jan. 26 court hearing should not have been closed to the public, and the transcripts should be released.

On Jan. 26, a preliminary hearing for Miguel Diaz-Martinez was scheduled. Diaz-Martinez has been charged with 41 felonies related to accusations that he exchanged drugs for sex with underage girls.

Diaz-Martinez ultimately decided he did not want a preliminary hearing, and the case was bound over to District Court, where felonies are heard.

It was disclosed in court during the Jan. 26 hearing that Diaz-Martinez had been offered a plea deal.

In a rare move, Routt County Judge James Garrecht offered to close his courtroom to the public for a few minutes. District Attorney Brett Barkey said he wanted to state the plea deal on the record, but he did not think it was appropriate in this case to do it publicly.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today requested the transcripts, believing court should not have been held in secret.

Hill agreed.

“Once the public is excluded, that First Amendment right has been abridged,” Hill said.

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