DADE CITY — Attorneys for the man accused in the movie theater shooting of a fellow patron can question a member of the Pasco sheriff's command staff despite the agency's objections, a judge ruled Thursday.
Curtis Reeves' defense team had sent a notice to Col. Jeff Harrington to appear today to be interviewed under oath about what he knows about the Jan. 13 shooting outside the Cobb Grove 16 Theatres in Wesley Chapel. Harrington, a top deputy to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, responded when deputies were called to the theater, where authorities say Reeves, a 71-year-old retired Tampa police captain, fatally shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson after an argument about texting.
Sheriff's Office attorneys filed a motion asking for a protective order exempting him from sitting down with the defense. Lindsay Moore argued during a hearing Thursday that requiring Harrington to appear would not provide any relevant information because he never went inside the theater and was not directly involved in the investigation.
She also said requiring agency heads to testify sets "a dangerous precedent," as they could be called in any criminal case.
Reeves, who was freed on bail last month, did not appear at the hearing. Oulson's widow, Nicole, sat in the front row with her attorney, TJ Grimaldi, but they did not speak in court and declined to comment after.
Dino Michaels, one of Reeves' attorneys, said Harrington's name was on a witness list. Other deputies whose names appeared on the list had no problem giving interviews, even though they had little or no direct involvement. If Harrington didn't know anything, Michaels said, a deposition should be easy and brief.
"I appreciate the fact that the colonel may not have gone to the crime scene, but . . . just because he didn't physically go in doesn't mean he didn't consult with other individuals who did go in," Michaels said. "I don't know what he saw or didn't see. We're just asking for an opportunity to depose the colonel."
Moore and prosecutors said Harrington's name appeared on the list in error and was removed. Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia said prosecutors do not plan to call him during Reeves' second-degree murder trial.
But Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa ruled against the Sheriff's Office.
"I don't draw a distinction between being inside the theater or outside the theater," he said.
Michaels said after the hearing that the defense had not ruled out calling Nocco, who was also at the theater, as a witness.
Reeves, who is living at his Hernando County home after spending six months in jail, is on house arrest except to go to church, medical appointments and the grocery store.
However, he won the right Thursday to travel to his attorney's office in Tampa so he can better assist in his defense. Prosecutors objected, saying he should have to give advance notice of trips. But Siracusa said his ankle monitor would record his every move.
"If he deviates 2 feet from that route," you'll know, he said.
The next hearing is set for Sept. 10. Siracusa said he hopes to set a trial date then.