Judge intervenes against Clackamas County attorney’s attempt to block media access

An attorney representing a Clackamas County equestrian accused of sexual abuse made false statements to question media “objectivity” and failed to convince the judge to bar a Pamplin Media Group journalist from the courtroom.

An attorney representing the now former staffer and alleged romantic partner of a professional horse trainer, Jill McGrady, wanted journalists restricted to limit media access that is expressly allowed by court rules.

Harrison Joseph Brown, 26, was indicted by a Clackamas County grand jury in October on four felony counts of sex abuse involving a minor. He was arrested after turning himself into authorities.

The alleged then-minor victim, Kaylyn McGrady, now 21, is the estranged daughter of professional horse trainer Jill McGrady, who operated Quiet Rein Riding School and was the founder of the nonprofit Leg Up Northwest, both of which are now shuttered.

During a case management hearing on Feb. 15, Brown’s attorney, Shannon Kmetic, raised concern with the judge allowing media to film the proceedings.

Brown family members in the courtroom gallery objected to the media access, prompting a sheriff’s deputy to intervene and attempt to stop the filming. As Pamplin Media Group captured on video, Judge Katherine E. Weber quickly stopped the deputy, stating she had granted permission for reporters to record.

The younger McGrady gave an exclusive interview to Equestrian Media Group in April 2023, where she and her attorney, Russel Prince, detailed how she had initially tried to report the alleged conduct to her mother, who failed to report the incident to authorities.

Brown was permanently suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport in August of 2023 following a year-long investigation into the allegations after McGrady opened up to investigators in the summer of 2022.

After the judge made clear the recording was permitted, Kmetic alleged that Equestrian Media Group reporters had caused “commotion” and safety concerns for Brown on prior occasions.

“Judge, my concern — I understand that the court has the purview to allow that — unfortunately, these individuals have caused some commotion outside the courtroom on prior occasions, so I’m very concerned about their objectivity as it relates to these proceedings,” Kmetic told the court.

However, reporters with Equestrian Media Group and Pamplin Media Group hadn’t attended any past hearings in Brown’s case.

Kmetic tried walking back her statements in emails with Equestrian Media Group, claiming she was not being specific about the conduct of any journalists but was referring to other individuals.

“If you report that, it would be inaccurate. I said individuals associated with this case, which is absolutely true. If you make statements like you indicated, they would be in error,” wrote Kmetic.

Kmetic’s concerns about “objectivity” left little doubt that it was targeted at news media in an effort to convince the court to stifle future access.

Kmetic responded: “If you were recording, it was without court permission. I am not going to debate with you.”

However, a court clerk confirmed that media had approval from Weber before the proceedings, and the judge confirmed this permission during the proceeding while media was clearly recording.

“You do not have permission to publish any of my statements. And again, you do not have an order to do what you did, which I intend to raise with the Court. It will not be permitted in any capacity moving forward,” Kmetic wrote to Equestrian Media Group.

Equestrian Media Group responded by contesting Kmetic’s implication that her permission was required to publish her statements.

“You should know we do not need your permission to publish your statements, whether they have been recorded or not. As an attorney, you should know we are protected by the 1st Amendment and Article 1, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution,” Equestrian Media Group responded.

In Oregon, media access to the courts is generally required to be granted according to rights afforded under Article 1, Section 10, of the Oregon Constitution. Various cases have resulted in the adoption of Oregon’s Uniform Trial Court Rules that expressly provide for camera access by media representatives.

Brown’s next court hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. March 18 at the Clackamas County Courthouse.

0
0

Recent Blogs