Judge takes gag order against Lott under consideration

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A judge is taking a gag order against Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott under consideration Friday morning following a hearing.

The gag order would work to quiet Lott and his remarks against Freddie Grant, the suspect in the case of 15-year-old Gabbiee Swainson, a teen who has been missing for almost three weeks now.

E. Fielding Pringle, Grant's attorney, argued comments from Lott, which include calling Grant a monster and saying that Grant makes the him sick at his stomach, are demonizing language that could influence the public against Grant. She asked that the judge put some restrictions on what Lott can say about the case.

"I'm not asking to restrain every single witness, you could narrow that down to every member of the Richland County Sheriff's Department and the investigators that work in that department, any of the individuals that are working toward the investigation of this matter, that is a way to narrow this down," said E. Fielding Pringle, Grant's attorney.

Dan Goldberg with the Solicitor's office argued Lott has a right to inform the public about the case, and that's what's he's done. Goldberg sent a letter to the sheriff reminding him of the rules of conduct public officials must abide but when it comes to making statements to the media.

Goldberg also said what Grant's defense is asking for is too broad and would prevent anyone they consider calling to testify at trial from talking including Gabbiee's mother, Elvia.

"We'd be prohibited from talking about the case in any way whatsoever, she wouldn't be able to talk about the search for her missing 15-year-old daughter," Goldberg said. "She wouldn't be able to go to church rallies and comment at the meetings there, she wouldn't be able to go to school rallies and in Gabbiee's honor and talk about it there."

Lott has said that Grant is an acquaintance of the Swainson family and he had access to their home due to a key he was given by Gabbiee's mother, Elvia Swainson.

The sheriff has also accused Grant in the case of 28-year-old Adriana Laster, a Florida woman who was last seen with Grant in Elgin back on Sept. 3, 2011. She was reported missing in March by a family member back in Florida.

Grant is currently sitting in the Lexington County Detention Center.

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