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Gag Order Issued in Steve Foley Shooting

San Diego- A judge imposed a sweeping gag order in the Steve Foley case yesterday, ordering lawyers to stop leaking evidence and refrain from talking to the media.

“No leaks, no press conferences,” San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Fraser told the lawyers during an afternoon court hearing. “I will enforce this order through contempt or whatever other means appropriate.”

The gag order was necessary, the judge stated, “to prevent this case from becoming a media circus.”

The judge’s ruling came after numerous San Diego media outlets were given evidence pertaining to the investigation into the wounding of Chargers linebacker Foley.

Foley was shot three times by an off-duty Coronado police officer on Sept. 3 after the officer, who was out of uniform and driving a civilian car, tried to pull Foley over on suspicion of drunken driving.

In the past week, The San Diego Union-Tribune, as well as local television stations, have been given an assortment of evidence, including audiotapes of interviews with the officer, Aaron Mansker, [pictured] and with the passenger in Foley’s car on the night of the shooting.

Yesterday’s hearing was requested by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, which accused the defense of disseminating the information and asked the judge to issue a protective order preventing further leaks.

“I’ve been a prosecutor 22 years, and I’ve never seen this extensive leaks in the media,” Deputy District Attorney James Koerber told the judge.

Koerber said he was worried about turning over additional evidence to the defense because “I’m going to see it on the 10 o’clock news.”

“This case should be tried in the courtroom, not over the airwaves of San Diego County,” Koerber said.

Ray Vecchio, the lawyer for Lisa Maree Gaut, the passenger in Foley’s car, acknowledged giving some information to the media but said he did so only because prosecutors had released information damaging to his client.

Gaut faces a variety of criminal charges, including assault with a deadly weapon. In court documents on file in the case, prosecutors say Gaut took the wheel of Foley’s car at one point and tried to ram Mansker as the officer was standing in the street.

“They were the first to play the facts of the case out publicly,” Vecchio told the judge. Vecchio has insisted Gaut and Foley acted in self-defense because they assumed Mansker was a carjacker or over-exuberant fan, not a police officer.

Guylyn Cummins, a lawyer representing the Union-Tribune and several other media outlets, objected to the gag order and said she might appeal the judge’s ruling.

“I think this is probably the broadest gag order I’ve seen in my 21 years of practicing law,” she said.

Cummins said a judge should impose such a gag order only if there is proof that pretrial publicity would make it impossible to seat an impartial jury. In a county with more than 2.5 million residents, seating 12 unbiased jurors shouldn’t be a problem even with the intensive media coverage, Cummins said.

Gaut faces a preliminary hearing next month. Foley, who is out for the season because of his gunshot wounds, hasn’t been charged with a crime. Mansker remains on administrative leave from his job with the Coronado Police Department pending the results of an investigation into the shooting.

More: In separate interviews with investigators, two very different perspectives emerged as off-duty Officer Aaron Mansker and Lisa Maree Gaut recounted the harrowing details surrounding the shooting of Chargers linebacker Steve Foley.

In one of the taped interviews, obtained yesterday by The San Diego Union-Tribune, 25-year-old Gaut, who was with Foley, is heard crying as she recalls being followed by Mansker, who was driving a black Mazda.

She said the pair thought they were being pursued because Foley was a football player.

Gaut told deputies that when they neared Foley’s home on Travertine Court in Poway, Foley got out and Mansker just fired at him.

“And then all of a sudden I see the guy get out of the car and just start shooting at him,” she said. “So I get in the driver seat and I pull into the driveway. His car is like a racer car so it’s hard to get in gear. So I tried putting it in reverse and I backed up and I was going to go back to pick him up.”

Mansker, 23, told a roomful of investigators another version of the Sept. 3 encounter with Foley: “He kept coming toward me. I said, ‘Police, stop. You need to stop.’ He continued. I drew my gun again,” Mansker said.

Mansker said he then fired one warning shot into a dirt berm.

“I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, he’s still walking up.’ Which made me very nervous. If someone is shooting, whether at you or in the area, you’re probably going to leave, that should be your first reaction. That’s not the case.”

Mansker said Foley then started reaching into his waistband as he drew near.

“I thought for sure he’s going to pull his gun and I’m gone. . . . I’m not going home tonight,” Mansker said.

After firing a few rounds at Foley, he then turned his attention back to Gaut, who he said had just tried to run him down with a car.

“She’s revving, and I’m thinking, OK, she’s going to run me over. I’m done here.”

Gaut, on the other hand, told investigators that she never heard Mansker, who was dressed in plainclothes, identify himself as an officer.

“I thought it was just some, just a regular person,” Gaut said.

Gaut is charged with assault with a deadly weapon and drunken driving in the incident.

Foley, 31, who is still recovering from three gunshot wounds, has not been charged. Sheriff’s investigators have recommended misdemeanor drunken driving charges to the county District Attorney’s Office because of Foley’s 0.23 blood-alcohol level.

When a sheriff’s investigator asks Mansker if his badge was visible during the incident, he replied, “I honestly don’t know.”

Advertisement In photos taken by investigators after the shooting, Mansker is seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and black sneakers. His gun holster is seen as a bulge under his untucked shirt, which is pulled up to show his badge clipped onto his belt.

Mansker, driving his own Mazda, was on his way home from work at 3 a.m. when he spotted Foley on state Route 163 weaving all over the road, he told investigators.

According to Coronado police policy, off-duty officers, especially those in unmarked cars, “shall not enforce traffic violations unless the nature of the violation presents an immediate, substantial threat of serious injury or death,” such as reckless driving and drunken driving.

The policy, released by the department this week, also states that unmarked vehicles shall not be used in pursuits.

Whether Mansker was in pursuit or merely following Foley is still being investigated.

He called the California Highway Patrol on his radio to ask for uniformed backup, but units didn’t show up until after the shooting.

At first, a dispatcher told him there were no units in the area, according to dispatch tapes obtained by the Union-Tribune.

The nearest available officer was several minutes away, at Interstate 5 and 28th Street.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you try calling San Diego or sheriff’s?’ I said, ‘Great, thanks,’ ” Mansker recalled to investigators, with a little sarcastic snort.

When a CHP dispatcher notifies a sheriff’s dispatcher about what is happening, the sheriff’s dispatcher seems taken aback.

“Yeah, I’m surprised he got him to pull over. I wouldn’t pull over for him,” she says on the tape.

Later, Mansker, who is unfamiliar with the area, is heard giving sheriff’s dispatchers wrong street names, such as Travernice instead of Travertine Court.

Still, Mansker sounded calm on the radio during the 20 minutes he followed Foley.

In his hour-and-45-minute interview with investigators, the rookie officer said he has followed suspected drunken drivers while off-duty before. They ended up not being drunk.

“I followed a guy from the 15 all the way to my house in Escondido, and he’s weaving in and about lanes, speeding. I followed him through Escondido, Escondido PD stopped him, and he was just tired,” he said. “One lady I had CHP stop, and she was just diabetic.”

Mansker said he has been involved in about 14 or more drunken-driving arrests and has pulled over many more suspected of driving under the influence.

“I take people off all the time and check them and make sure they’re OK,” he said.

 

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