By JULIE JETTE
The Patriot Ledger
|GREG DERR/The Patriot Ledger|
Lawyer Michael Bourbeau found himself on the defensive in Brockton Superior Court after prosecutor Frank Middleton charged him with violating a judge's gag order in the Carolyn Riley (seated) murder case.
BROCKTON – The defense lawyer for a Hull woman accused of killing her own daughter found himself on the defensive and facing a possible contempt-of-court citation after a prosecutor accused him of revealing too much to the media.
Prosecutor Frank Middleton told a judge Wednesday that Michael Bourbeau, the attorney for Carolyn Riley, disclosed secret grand jury testimony to reporters after a hearing earlier this month.
Superior Court Judge John B. Connor Jr. indicated that he may question members of the media in the matter.
Riley and her husband, Michael Riley, are accused of first-degree murder in the death of their 4-year-old daughter last December in the Hull home in which they were living.
A medical examiner’s report said that the girl, Rebecca Riley, died of an overdose of clonidine, one of a number of drugs prescribed to her because of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder.
The unusual nature of the case has drawn attention from media outlets nationwide.
Middleton, the first assistant district attorney of Plymouth County, told Connor at a hearing Wednesday that he had serious questions about Bourbeau’s professional conduct in the case because of what he views as leaks to the press.
After the couple was indicted by a grand jury, Judge Carol Ball in March ordered both sides not to divulge grand jury testimony.
Middleton accused Bourbeau of faxing his motion to dismiss Carolyn Riley’s case, which allegedly contained grand jury testimony, to reporters.
Stories about the motion ran in The Patriot Ledger and The Boston Globe on July 10. The article published in The Patriot Ledger was credited to the Associated Press news service.
Middleton said he initially assumed that reporters had requested the documents from the Plymouth County Superior Court clerk’s office. But he said officials there told him they had not received any requests for the motion before July 11.
“Clearly, (Bourbeau) filed the motion and then began faxing it to media outlets,” Middleton said. “Mr. Bourbeau clearly has the press outlets on speed dial.”
Middleton said that CBS news anchor Katie Couric conducted a three-hour jailhouse interview with Carolyn Riley, set up, he assumed, by Bourbeau.
CBS would not confirm whether Couric interviewed Riley. (Watch CBS interview)
The hearing Wednesday was called to hear arguments on a defense motion to dismiss the charges against the Rileys, but that motion was not discussed.
Middleton opened with his accusation against Bourbeau. Bourbeau responded by accusing Middleton of releasing an inflammatory and misleading arrest-warrant affidavit after the Rileys were taken into custody. That document was widely used in media reports to describe what allegedly happened to Rebecca Riley in the weeks before her death.
In the affidavit, Rebecca Riley is described as likely having suffered severely before she died. It includes statements from other adults living in the house who said they begged the girl’s parents to seek medical attention for her because she seemed so sick.
Bourbeau said that his motion to dismiss “responds to what was a very prejudicial presentation to the grand jury.”
Among other allegations Bourbeau made in the motion to dismiss was the assertion that Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz’s office failed to show the grand jury a photograph of Rebecca Riley taken 36 hours before she died, in which she appears healthy and happy.
Connor ordered Bourbeau, Middleton and Michael Riley’s attorney, John Darrell, not to speak to the press about the case or to alert the media of filings made to the court.
“Because the allegations are serious and both of you have reputations of integrity ... both sides should have the opportunity to present evidence,” Connor told Bourbeau and Middleton.
“I need to know if I’m being charged with contempt,” Bourbeau replied.
Connor told him that he would let him know by 4 p.m. Wednesday how he would proceed. But Connor left court Wednesday without leaving any instructions regarding Bourbeau, a court clerk said.
Bourbeau could face jail time if found in contempt of court. He could not be reached for comment after the hearing.
Carolyn Riley appeared in court Wednesday wearing cornrows in her hair and a bandage on her right wrist.
Connor scheduled a hearing for a motion to dismiss the cases against both Rileys for Aug. 29.