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Judge denies gag order in Bethel abuse case

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Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A Fairbanks judge has turned down a defense attorney's request for a gag order to prevent the Alaska Office of Children's Services from releasing information about a former foster parent and daycare operator who is accused of sexually abusing two children in his care.
The decision by Superior Court Judge Douglas Blankenship was issued in two criminal cases against Peter Tony, 69, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Tony and his late wife, Marilyn, were foster care parents in Bethel for 14 years, ending in 1998. The couple then operated a child care center in Bethel.
Tony is accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old foster daughter in 1998, and a 4-year-old last year at the day care center.
His attorney, Mark Osterman, requested the gag order, which was denied Monday. Osterman, with the state Office of Public Advocacy, had argued that the information released by OCS could hurt Tony's chances for a fair trial.
Reporters requested and had received copies of some of the couple's foster care licensing file. Many pages were withheld and portions of the file were redacted.
According to the partial file, there had been at least six complaints about the foster home. The 1998 sexual abuse allegation was the only report confirmed, according to the records.
In his decision, Blankenship wrote that the defense hadn't made its case. The judge also said that OCS did not appear to cross any lines when it released the information.
"The court cannot justify a prior restraint on the First Amendment right of the press to obtain information under the Alaska Public Disclosure statutes," Blankenship wrote.
Blankenship is hearing the case because of prosecution objections to one Bethel judge and defense objections to another judge there.
The judge cautioned attorneys on both sides to avoid releasing any information or making any comments that could hurt Tony's chances of a fair trial.

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