Freddie Grant (Image: Lexington County Detention Center)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A judge heard arguments Friday morning for a gag order request in the ongoing case of missing teenager Gabbiee Swainson and the man the Richland County sheriff says took her.
The lawyer for 52-year-old Freddie Grant and Sheriff Leon Lott presented arguments before Circuit Court Judge DeAndrea Benjamin.
Grant is currently booked on a federal ammunitions charge and is being held at the Lexington County Detention Center.
Swainson, 15, was last seen on August 18 by her mother at their Richland County home.
While Grant has not been formally charged with Swainson's disappearance, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says he has a warrant for Grant's arrest on one count of kidnapping. The sheriff says a detainer has been placed on Grant, meaning that when he is released from jail on the federal charged, he'd immediately be taken to Richland County and served a warrant. Previous Coverage: Gag Order Requested in Grant Case
Since Grant's arrest, Lott has held several news conferences updating the case, and implicating Grant in the crime. At times he's referred to Grant as a "monster" and the person who can tell them where the girl is. Previous Coverage: Sheriff Says This Key Opened Gabbiee's Home
In court Friday, Grant's attorney, Fielding Pringle, said those statements have demonized her client, and have overdramatized the case. She characterized the media coverage of the case as "excessive," and quoted comments sections of media websites that called for violence against Grant.
Lott's attorney, however, said the gag request was too broad and violated free speech rules, saying the sheriff has a right to update the public on a missing person's case. He also said there is no clear and present danger to Grant by the comments Lott has made. Instead, the sheriff's attorney said a more selective jury process or moving the case to another area would protect Grant's right to a fair trial.
The attorney questioned if the motion for the gag order should even be heard in a Fifth Circuit Court, since Grant has currently not been charged in that jurisdiction. The attorney also wondered why the public defender's office became involved in this case without formal charges.
A timeframe for the decision was not made public.