News Herald Asks County Judge to Override a Decision to Seal Girls Gone Wild Court Records

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The News Herald is hoping a Bay County judge will override another county judge's decision to seal records in the Girls Gone Wild case.

Last April, Bay County judge Thomas Welch banned access to search warrants in the case after deputies raided the video company's airplane and motel rooms. Ten months later, lawyers for the News Herald and the state went before county Judge Dedee Costello to plead their cases.

The state cited a 1998 court decision that allows search warrants to be exempt from the public records law if they are part of an ongoing investigation, but News Herald attorneys argued the First Amendment and Florida Constitution would override that decision because a court must look at every piece of evidence individually and decide if it would compromise a case if opened to the public.

"It's important here because no Florida court has decided whether a First Amendment right is attached to search warrant materials once they're executed. We say based on cases around the country the public has a right to know once a search warrant has been served," says John Bussian, Lawyer for Florida Freedom Newspapers.

Bussian says Judge Costello's decision will set a precedent regarding the public's right to access in Florida.