Editorial: Don’t close the hearing
On Thursday, a court hearing on a cigarette smuggling case is expected to be closed to the public – and to the news media – because evidence against the two men charged has been cited by the Shenandoah County sheriff as being too sensitive to be revealed.
The hearing in Shenandoah County Circuit Court is expected to cover how much information in these sealed files can be revealed in open court during the trial of two men facing charges of cigarette smuggling. The files under seal are from a Freedom of Information Act request made last year by the defendants’ attorney for information about the Sheriff’s Office’s undercover cigarette smuggling operations.
Due to this case, a few details have emerged about the undercover operations and questions have been raised about the millions of dollars in asset forfeiture monies awarded by the federal government to the Sheriff’s Office from such cases.
We strongly urge the court to let this hearing be open to the public and, more importantly, to unseal the documents. Keeping them sealed will hamper the attorney’s efforts to defend his clients and prevent them from receiving a fair trial.