The motion was filed by the Public Defender’s Office in response to statements made to the media by Assistant District Attorney Scot Clark involving three high-profile homicide cases, which the Public Defender’s Office claimed are prejudicial to their clients.
The District Attorney’s Office argues that a gag order would be unconstitutional censorship of free speech. According to the DA, any statements made during arraignment or after were part of public record and there is no impediment to any defendant receiving a fair trial.
“San Franciscans have a right to know what’s happening in their justice system,” said Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian.
The cases the Public Defender’s Office refers to in the motion include Ronnie Collins, a 21-year-old man accused of killing Ikenna Uwakah in December over the sale of a PlayStation 4. During Collins’ arraignment, Clark referred to Collins as a “Christmastime predator” and later at a news conference said Collins’ alleged actions were the “antithesis of the season of giving.”
The gag order request also mentions the cases of Nikhom Thephakaysone, a 30-year-old San Francisco resident who is accused of killing Justin Valdez in the Oceanview neighborhood in September, and Barry White Jr., the man accused in the killing of two workers at the San Francisco GiftCenter & JewelryMart in July. The Public Defender’s Office declined to comment at this time.