A federal judge has issued a gag order seeking to limit public comment by both federal prosecutors and lawyers for HealthSouth Corp.'s ex-Chief Executive Officer Richard Scrushy in his ongoing criminal fraud case. The decision was reached late Friday in a hearing in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., before Judge Karon Bowdre, who is expected to issue a formal order on the matter this week. According to the Associated Press, Bowdre said she was worried that Scrushy's right to be presumed innocent was in jeopardy and that he should not be "tried and convicted on the courthouse steps" and in the media, but that prosecutors also have a right to a fair trial. "Certainly the interest of the court ... (is) that we have a fair trial in this case untainted by pretrial publicity," Bowdre said, according to the AP. Late last month, federal prosecutors filed a motion seeking the gag order on the grounds that Scrushy's defense counsel was attacking the credibility of government witnesses, launching personal attacks against federal prosecutors and accusing the government of misconduct in statements to the press and the public. In court documents, Scrushy's attorneys argued in reply that prosecutors sought too much court intervention and that the case did not justify a gag order because the government had not shown that the amount or nature of the publicity poses a "substantial likelihood of prejudice" to a fair trial. Scrushy is free on $10 million bond; his trial is set to begin Aug. 23 in Birmingham. -- by Julie Piotrowski
Gag order issued in Scrushy case
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