Veterans Court judge allows reporters, bans cameras at Palin's hearings
The Anchorage's Veterans Court judge has denied Track Palin's request to ban the media from covering his hearings, but cameras will not be allowed in the courtroom.
Track Palin, the son of former Alaska Governor and nominee for vice president, Sarah Palin, is facing charges for a run-in with his father that happened in December last year. The criminal complaint alleges Track had been drinking while on painkillers when he entered the family's home through a window and assaulted his father.
Track's case has been moved from Palmer to Anchorage's Veterans Court, an alternative court program for veterans focused on rehabilitation, accountability and treatment, rather than jail time.
His defense attorney, Patrick Bergt, filed a motion that sought to prohibit news outlets from covering Track’s court proceedings.
The motion said, "Mr. Palin seeks to prohibit or limit the scope of the media's access to his Veterans Court proceedings in the hopes that his case does not become a distraction to other veterans in the program."
KTVA, along with two other news outlets, is represented by attorney John McKay, who filed a response to the motion in opposition of the media being excluded from the proceedings and arguing for the right to bring cameras into the courtroom.
Monday, Judge David Wallace issued an order allowing the presence of reporters in the courtroom, which is described as open to the public on the Alaska Courts website.
Wallace acknowledged, "To enter an order closing the hearing to the public and the media would violate the basic and fundamental principles set forth in long-standing precedent."
According to the order, cameras, of any kind, will not be permitted-- a decision Wallace hinged on the therapeutic nature of Veterans Court.
"It's a little bit more intimate, and the judge feels that that is a sufficiently compelling reason to treat it differently and not have that extra level of exposure for the participants to be on camera," said McKay.
A hearing in this therapeutic court is markedly different from other criminal court hearings. Participants stay for every hearing, not just their own, Wallace asks each one how their week has gone and offers advice or words of encouragement, and courtroom-wide applause follows each defendant's appearance.
According to the Alaska Courts website, in order to "opt in" to Anchorage's Veterans Court, "The veteran must agree to plead Guilty or No Contest to at least one charge and agree to receive one of two sentences: a regular court sentence if the participant does not complete his or her VA treatment plan or a lesser sentence if the participant completes his or her treatment plan."
Palin is expected to enter his plea next Monday.
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