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Husband of embattled judge tries to block subpoena of his e-mails

May 10, 2002 

The husband of Superior Court Judge Maria Lopez plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block subpoenas of his e-mails by a board investigating whether his wife led a "whispering campaign" to discredit the victim in a sex abuse case.

Stephen Mindich has repeatedly appealed state court orders to turn over e-mails in which he discussed the controversy over his wife's sentencing of a man who attempted to kidnap and rape a child.

Mindich, publisher of the Boston Phoenix newspaper, says the court orders violate his privacy and free speech rights.

"The times he has chosen to talk confidentially with his correspondents are none of the government's business," said Mindich's attorney, Harvey Silverglate, on Friday. "The judges ... would think differently if it were their e-mails that were being subpoenaed."

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct filed disciplinary charges against Lopez on Tuesday, contending that she coddled an admitted child molester, Charles Horton, and made inappropriate personal attacks on prosecutors.

Horton, a man who dresses as a woman, admitted putting a screwdriver to the neck of a 12-year-old boy when he refused to perform a sex act. The case sparked a furor because Lopez sentenced him to only a year of home detention and because she berated the prosecutor in the courtroom.

On Friday, the state Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion that explained why the commission has a "compelling interest" in seeing Mindich's e-mails -- namely, the investigation of complaints against his wife, a sitting judge. Mindich admits discussing the case over e-mail.

The ruling says that Mindich's e-mails are necessary to prove whether Lopez conducted a behind-the-scenes "whispering campaign" to discredit Horton's victim and justify what many viewed as a lenient sentence.

"Where the judge's husband is himself a journalist, any attempt by the judge to mount a 'whispering campaign' in the press would logically be undertaken with the help of her husband," the court said in its opinion.

But the charges filed earlier in the week, which were based on 63 complaints against Lopez and interviews with witnesses, made no mention of the alleged "whispering campaign."

"The Supreme Judicial Court decision is based on a gigantic, erroneous assumption that there was a whispering campaign, which the charges released earlier this week say didn't happen," Silverglate said.

Mindich's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will be filed in the next 30 days, Silverglate said.

By John McElhenny, Associated Press. Copyright © 2002 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing Inc.

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