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Release of Baugh Mug Shot Up to Sheriff, Judge Rules


SANTA ANA — A Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the Orange County Sheriff's Department should decide whether to release the booking photographs of Assemblyman Scott Baugh and two GOP aides who face charges stemming from Baugh's campaign last year.

Judge David O. Carter, acting on a motion filed by media attorneys, said his ruling would not become effective until Friday and it will allow those involved the chance to appeal.

An attorney representing Baugh and the two aides contended the rights of the three defendants to a fair trial could be hurt by publication of the booking photos, which could create an impression of guilt.

All three have pleaded not guilty. An Aug. 26 jury trial date has been tentatively set for Baugh.

Media attorneys contended the booking photos represent a "uniquely newsworthy moment" and are evidence the defendants are being treated the same as any other person in the criminal justice system.

The judge refused motions from media attorneys to release the photos in April, saying mug shots with booking numbers on them could pose fair-trial concerns, and that he wanted to avoid the cost of moving the trial to another county.

He was assured by media attorneys Monday that the Sheriff's Department, as a matter of policy, routinely excises booking numbers from photos released to the public.

Sheriff's Lt. Ron Wilkerson said the department and county lawyers will evaluate the ruling "very closely" before making any decisions about releasing the photos.

Baugh (R-Huntington Beach), who was elected to the Assembly on Nov. 28 replacing recalled Assemblywoman Doris Allen, is charged with felony perjury and misdemeanor violations of falsely reporting or failing to report campaign loans, contributions and expenditures, as well as the improper use of cash in the campaign to secure the 67th Assembly District seat.

Rhonda Carmony, who worked in Baugh's campaign, faces three felony charges stemming from her alleged role in orchestrating the candidacy of a Democratic spoiler in the race. Maureen Werft, Baugh's chief of staff, is charged with two counts of voting illegally in the contest.

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