No gag order in case involving ex-aide to Jennifer Carroll

TALLAHASSEE — As the state prepares to interview witnesses in the case against a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a judge has warned attorneys to watch what they say.

Circuit Court Judge Frank Sheffield declined Assistant State Attorney John Hutchins' attempt to seal the case file and prevent lawyers representing former aide Carletha Cole from making statements to the media.

But Sheffield did hold a private meeting in his chambers Tuesday where he admonished lawyers on both sides, according to Steve Andrews, an attorney representing Cole.

"He told us that we cannot talk about the evidence in the case," Andrews said.

Cole is accused of sharing an illegal recording of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll with the Florida Times-Union newspaper. The case also involves a mysterious fire that Cole found burning in a trash can in her office, which she believed was arson.

Cole was later fired. In court documents, she said she fell out of favor with Carroll after encountering the lieutenant governor in a "compromising position" with travel aide Beatriz Ramos.

Hutchins filed a five-page motion asking for the gag order on Monday. During the update hearing on the state's case against Cole — she is charged with a felony — Sheffield addressed the last-minute request.

"We didn't have a hearing on the gag order, and I'm not going to enter a gag order, but I am expecting compliance with the rules of professional conduct in regard to extrajudicial statements," he said.

Both the defense and the state attorney's office have named the people they may interview as part of the case.

Among potential witnesses for the state: Brian Burgess, Gov. Rick Scott's director of communications; John Konkus, Carroll's chief of staff and the person who's voice is on the illegally taped conversation; Dawn Hanson, Scott's director of administration; and Matt Dixon, the Times-Union reporter who received the recording.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

No gag order in case involving ex-aide to Jennifer Carroll 07/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 10:54pm]

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