Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

March 24, 2014

Rider's defense seeks gag order

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — Brandon Brown, defense attorney for Troy Neil Rider, has filed a motion to prohibit law enforcement from making extrajudicial statements to the media as the sexual abuse case against Rider moves forward. 

Rider, 33, is the head football coach for Knoxville High School. He has been charged in Marion County with two counts of third-degree sexual abuse and one count of sexual exploitation by a school employee. 

The Knoxville Police Department began investigating allegations made by a 15-year-old female KHS student and her family on Feb. 11. The allegations were against an unidentified school employee. 

The Journal-Express' initial report indicated that Knoxville Police Chief Dan Losada would not comment on the investigation any further until charges, if any, were filed. However, according to the motion, Losada began to provide details and making public statements to other media outlets.

The motion cites a Feb. 13 article that appeared in the Des Moines Register, three weeks before charges were filed against Rider. Losada also provided comment, in which the defense alleges that Losada revealed the scope of the investigation and made statements that could prejudice a potential jury pool against Rider. 

The Register and other media outlets reported that the crime scene address matched that of a home owned by Rider. These outlets included Rider's name in their articles. The Journal-Express refused to attach any suspect's name to the investigation before charges were filed. 

Included in the motion are the examples of the media coverage provided in the early days of the investigation. The defense also finds prejudice in a March 7 KPD press release (run in its entirety by the Journal-Express online and other media outlets) with the statement, "The Knoxville Police Department received and recovered evidence that corroborates the accusations against Mr. Rider." 

"The pervasive nature in which the Knoxville Police Department is providing information to the media is causing irreparable damage to Mr. Rider's venire in this case and unquestionably impairs Mr. Rider's ability to obtain a fair and impartial trial, not only in Marion County, but also any county within the scope of media coverage for the sources reporting this story," the motion reads. 

As Losada, and, most likely, other KPD officers may be called as witnesses if the case goes to trial, the defense alleges that it is improper for witnesses to launch a campaign to endorse or bolster the extent of its investigation. The motion cites precedent for gag orders and prohibition of comments being made in other cases. 

"Mr. Rider is being unfairly prejudiced by the extrajudicial comments by members of the Knoxville Police Department to the media, as Mr. Rider cannot and will not respond in kind," the motion reads. In closing, the defense asks the court to prohibit Losada, the Knoxville Police Department and any other law enforcement agency involved in the investigation from making comments to the media. 

Losada, as well as Marion County Attorney Ed Bull, declined to comment on the defense's motion. Judge Gregory Hulse filed an order setting a hearing on this motion for April 4 at 9 a.m. 

A request for expanded media coverage, which would allow cameras and other recording equipment inside the courtroom during this case, was also filed on March 11. No ruling has been made on this request, though a previous ruling by Judge Steve Guiter has sealed the criminal complaint and other paperwork associated with the case, to try to protect the identity of the accuser. 

The Journal-Express will continue to follow this case as it moves forward.