Government argues case for protective order in BikeFest case

Published 10:37 pm Friday, October 10, 2014

A hearing for a protective order motion was held in Albany Wednesday in relation to a case involving an incident at BikeFest 2012 in front of U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands.

The U.S. District Court filed a protective order motion Aug. 27 to protect government witnesses from harassment and ensure the integrity of future proceedings stemming from the investigation. The motion also asked for the public to not have access to discovery materials related to the investigation.

The defendants in the case, Decatur County Sheriff’s Office deputies Elizabeth Croley and Christopher Kines, former Grady County deputy Wiley Griffin, IV, and former Decatur County deputy Robert Umbach, responded with an opposition to the government’s protective order Sept. 10.

The opposition motion argued there was no “good cause” for the protective order, as the “government has failed to establish its witnesses would, in the absence of a protective order, be subject to a realistic, appreciable risk of physical or economic harm,” according to the motion.

“We have concerns about witnesses and want to protect them from harm,” Risa Berkower, trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, said on behalf of the government.

She continued to point out the discovery phase of the investigation is a non-public part of the case and its purpose was solely to prep for trial. If information were to get out to the media or other outside parties, there would be real risk of harassment of witnesses, Berkower said.

“For the government to use media interest for the purpose of a protective order is astounding,” Griffin, IV’s attorney Charles E. Cox, Jr., said.

The defendant’s opposition motion argued the government was the original source of the media interest when they sent out a press release for the indictment of the defendants.

“It seems to me that there’s a double standard,” Umbach’s attorney Christina L. Hunt said.

An order is expected to be released by Sands in the coming days on his decision after the hearing.