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Judge Won’t Ease Gag Order In Theater Shootings

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James Holmes in his first court appearance on July 23, 2012. (credit: RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

James Holmes in his first court appearance on July 23, 2012. (credit: RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

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DENVER (AP) – The judge in the Colorado theater shootings will not loosen his secrecy orders in the case, as Aurora city officials had asked him to do.

But in an order made public Tuesday, the judge said it was up to city officials to decide what information they can legally disclose.

City Attorney Charles Richardson said as a result, he will continue to deny media requests for information.

“I am not going to risk jeopardizing the criminal prosecution of Mr. Holmes through releasing or not releasing material based on my opinion,” he said.

James Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 on July 20 in Aurora, a Denver suburb. Within days, District Judge William Sylvester, who is presiding over criminal proceedings, ordered court records sealed and barred officials from publicly discussing the attack to avoid influencing potential jurors.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. He is jailed without bail and is scheduled to enter a plea next month.

Aurora officials asked the judge last month to ease the secrecy orders, saying some records sought by news organizations – such as recordings of 911 calls – had been disclosed in open court.

Richardson said if news organizations wanted to challenge his decision to continue to withhold information, they could file an appeal under the Colorado Open Records Act and a judge would decide.

“That seems to me to be the least risky approach,” he said.

Richardson did not know whether such an appeal would be heard by Sylvester or another judge.

In their request to Sylvester that he loosen the gag order, city officials said they did not know if they could discuss the emergency response to the shootings with officials from other cities who inquired.

Richardson said he would consult with prosecutors, as Sylvester suggested, on whether emergency personnel could speak with researchers conducting a study of the city’s response.

The city plans to commission an outside study of the response amid questions about why medical personnel did not get access to the theater until nearly 24 minutes after the attack.

Separately, Cinemark USA, which owns the theater, asked a federal judge to dismiss lawsuits that allege the company failed to protect its customers.

Cinemark filed a motion Monday arguing that the lawsuits do not show the company is liable under the Colorado Premises Liability Act, The Denver Post reported.

Last month, a magistrate recommended that a federal judge dismiss the lawsuits’ claims of negligence and wrongful death against Cinemark. However, the magistrate said the claims that Cinemark violated the state Premises Liability Act could go forward.

That law covers slip-and-fall lawsuits, among other things.

- By Dan Elliott, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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