Prosecutor: Keep Nikos Hecht evidence public
The District Attorney’s Office doesn’t believe possible evidence in a domestic-violence case against a prominent Aspen developer should be shielded from the public, according to a court document.
Concerns about media coverage of Nikos Hecht tainting the jury pool and impinging on his right to a fair trial are unfounded, according to a response filed Thursday in Pitkin County Court by prosecutor Emily Nation.
“This case is not the crime of the century, as was, for example, the Oklahoma City bombing case referenced in defendant’s motion,” Nation wrote in her response to a recent motion filed by Hecht’s lawyer. “This case has not garnered an extreme or unprecedented amount of press.”
Hecht’s lawyer, Pamela Mackey of Denver, filed a motion earlier this month asking Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely to seal any evidence prosecutors want to introduce about other crimes or acts committed by Hecht. Mackey also wants the judge to close all hearings when that evidence is discussed.
“Based on counsel’s review of the discovery in this case, much of the other acts evidence the prosecution could (introduce) is irrelevant to this incident and involves intensely personal subject matters,” Mackey’s motion states. “Public dissemination of this irrelevant and likely inadmissible evidence poses a substantial risk of prejudicing the jury pool.”
Hecht is charged with assault, harassment and menacing — all misdemeanors — in connection with an incident that occurred at his home in late July between him and his former girlfriend. Nation points out in her response to the motion that the “public’s First Amendment rights are ‘fundamental,’” and that criminal trials and pretrial proceedings cannot be closed to the media “unless an overriding and compelling state interest in closing the proceedings is demonstrated.”
Hecht’s argument that media coverage of his case could taint the jury pool is faulty, Nation states in her response.
“Although this case has been thoroughly covered, so have many others,” according to the response. “The court cannot close proceedings to the public simply because the local media has chosen to cover it — if this were the court’s policy, the courtroom would be routinely closed.”
Any prejudicial effect caused by media coverage could be remedied during jury selection, when jurors who couldn’t set aside preconceived opinions could be dismissed, Nation wrote.
“In other words, there would still be plenty of impartial jurors in the jury pool,” the response states.
In the event Fernandez-Ely grants Hecht’s motion, Nation requests in her response that any sealed briefing and the transcript of any closed hearing be made available after the trial.
Hecht is free on a $1,000 bond and is due back in court Dec. 1.
Meanwhile, the prosecution did not oppose a motion filed Thursday allowing Hecht to travel to New York City and Palm Beach, Florida, in the coming months for business, and spend the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at his home in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
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