Plea Deal Kept Sealed Despite Leak on Court Website

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge ruled Thursday that details of a plea deal between an ex-police detective and federal prosecutors will remain sealed to protect the defendant and his family, even though the information was made available on the court’s website and included in a Los Angeles Times article over the weekend.

The Times story detailed former Glendale detective John Saro Balian’s cooperation with investigators after a document that was meant to be filed under seal was made available on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, website.

Within hours, U.S. District Judge John Walter issued a temporary restraining order against the LA Times at the request of Balian’s attorney to delete the sensitive information from the online article. He vacated the order on Tuesday.

At a hearing on Thursday, LA Times attorney Kelli Sager argued since the documents detailing Balian’s cooperating with federal prosecutors were published online and outside the article the information is already public knowledge. Walter disagreed and ruled the plea agreement will remain sealed, while accompanying documents must be redacted by Friday.

The sensitive documents were also inadvertently published by the Ninth Circuit when the LA Times challenged Walter’s restraining order but have since been sealed.

Emails to Sager and the Justice Department seeking comment were not answered by press time and Balian’s attorney, Craig Massakian, declined to comment.

Balian was arrested in May on a federal charge of making false statements during interviews with federal investigators who were looking into his connection to the Mexican Mafia and organized Armenian crime groups.

He pleaded guilty to one count each of soliciting a bribe, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal investigators, the LA Times reported.

 

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