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Court documents: Colorado suspect sent notebook to psychiatrist

July 27, 2012|By Molly Hennessey-Fiske
  • District Court Judge William Sylvester, who is overseeing the Colorado theater shooting case, has issued a series of rulings cutting back on media exposure.
District Court Judge William Sylvester, who is overseeing the Colorado… (R J Sangosti / Pool )

AURORA, Colo. -- Before the July 20 massacre in an Aurora movie theater, suspect James Holmes mailed a package containing a notebook to Dr. Lynne Fenton at the University of Colorado, a psychiatrist he had been seeing, according to a motion filed by public defenders representing Holmes.

In the filing, Holmes’ lawyers say that, after law enforcement executed a search warrant at the university on Monday and seized the package, someone leaked information about it to the media -- including allegations that Holmes had alerted law enforcement about the package. The release of such information violated a blanket gag order issued by the judge in the case, the lawyers say.

“The government's disclosure of this confidential and privileged information has placed Mr. Holmes' constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by an impartial jury at serious jeopardy,” they wrote.

Fenton did not return calls to her office at the university on Friday.

Holmes’ lawyers demanded access to the materials seized from the university, the names of the investigators involved in testing the package for explosives, the chain of custody of the package, and specifics related to the questioning of Holmes about the package and the potential leaking of information.

Arapahoe County Dist. Atty. Carol Chambers filed a motion in response asking the judge to deny the public defenders’ request, denying that any information was leaked and noting as evidence the inaccuracy of media reports, in particular Fox News, which broke the story of the notebook’s discovery and seizure.

“Whoever provided information to Fox News, if anyone, did not actually have knowledge of the facts of the case,” Chambers wrote, noting: “The Fox News story stated that the FBI took possession of the packages and its contents — this is incorrect, as it was the Aurora Police Department. The NBCNEWS.com story indicated that the Aurora Police Department had obtained two search warrants, one for the package itself and a second one for its contents. This is not correct, as the Aurora Police Department obtained only one search warrant.”

Chambers dismissed the report that Holmes had alerted investigators to the package as “just another inaccurate media report floating adrift in a sea of inaccurate media reports relating to this case.”

She noted that other media have erroneously reported that investigators opened the package and examined the contents when, in fact, they remained “secured and not examined,” awaiting officials' review.

“There may not even be a ‘law enforcement source’ ‘leaking’ confidential information,” Chambers wrote, saying prosecutors are “extremely dubious” of published reports and alleging the media may have received tips from “hoaxers,” “fraudsters” or “fake law enforcement sources.”

Investigators are still assembling evidence from the mail room where the package was recovered, she wrote, including surveillance video that may show the contents of the notebook and therefore have been sealed.

The lawyers demanded a hearing, which District Judge William Sylvester granted, according to an order posted Friday. The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the district court in Centennial, Colo.

Holmes was already expected to be in court Monday morning to face charges in connection with the shooting. The judge plans to address both at the same hearing, Colorado court spokesman Jon Sarche said.

The head of the Colorado state public defender's office, Douglas Wilson, was out of the office and did not return calls.

Casmir Spencer, a spokeswoman for the Arapahoe County district attorney's office, said she could not comment on the case.

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Join Molly on Google+ and Twitter @mollyhf. Email: molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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