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Judge won't open papers in Brucia murder case

Published Aug. 24, 2005

A judge refused to unseal documents in the Carlie Brucia slaying case that a newspaper says it needs to defend itself against a defamation lawsuit stemming from the girl's videotaped abduction.

Tampa attorney Gregg Thomas, who represents the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in a lawsuit brought by friends of slaying suspect Joseph P. Smith, told Circuit Judge Andrew Owens on Wednesday he needed to read sealed police reports and other documents to help fight the lawsuit.

Jeffrey and Naomi Pincus sued the newspaper in March after a story said the couple ran a pornography business out of their Sarasota home where Smith also had been living.

The Pincuses say that's not true and also sued the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer, which first published the information.

Smith was arrested at the Pincuses' home two days after the abduction of 11-year-old Carlie was recorded on a car wash surveillance video Feb. 1.

Her body was found on the grounds of a nearby church Feb. 6, and Smith was subsequently arrested on charges of murder, kidnapping and sexual battery.

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty when Smith goes on trial, probably later this year.

The Enquirer and the Herald-Tribune reported that the Pincuses ran a Web site offering videos of young women fighting and that they charged a fee to send two young women in "kinky outfits" to a client's home to "punch, scratch and bite each other."

In a letter to the Herald-Tribune, attorney Daniel A. Hoffman acknowledged the couple was involved in the marketing of the videos, which he said are not pornographic. He said the rest is an "outrageous untruth."

Judge Owens said he didn't see "extraordinary circumstances" warranting release of the case documents. He said Thomas, who also is representing the Enquirer, could try again if other efforts to get the information failed.

Owens also said he may delay the civil case until after the jury is picked in the slaying case. Then hundreds of pages of investigative records will be released.