Court Won't Unseal Priest-Case Papers

By Guillermo Contreras
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
February 4, 1999

The state's highest court on Wednesday refused to unseal court documents in the case of the Rev. Robert Malloy, who is accused of promoting prostitution and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

State District Judge James F. Blackmer sealed the contents of search- and arrest-warrant affidavits after Malloy's arrest in order to protect alleged victims and witnesses in the case. Malloy's attorney, Ray Twohig, asked the state Supreme Court on Dec. 31 to order Blackmer to unseal them.

Earlier this month, Blackmer handed Twohig sealed documents that were filed with warrants to search Malloy's home after Twohig complained that Blackmer acted illegally in sealing the information. Blackmer had partially sealed the search warrant listing what evidence was seized, and completely sealed the affidavit describing reasons for arrest. The names and addresses of certain witnesses were blacked out.

Twohig said he asked the Supreme Court to pry open the arrest warrant affidavit and reveal the names that were blacked out, but was turned down.

The decision means "that in the event that there is an indictment, at the time of arraignment they'll be unsealed, as the present order provides," Twohig said.

An indictment is the formal filing of charges, usually after a case is reviewed by a grand jury in state District Court. It is normally followed by the arraignment, when defendant enters a plea.

Twohig said Wednesday's hearing was his last recourse to get the records unsealed.

"I thought that it would be helpful to have the Supreme Court address the issue: judges preventing lawyers and defendants from obtaining information that the rules allow them to have," Twohig said. "The Supreme Court decided that I could wait until after the arraignment on any indictment that's issued. It's unfortunate that this process of hiding things that judges like Judge Blackmer have begun doesn't get reviewed and rejected as quickly as possible by the Supreme Court."

Bernalillo County District Attorney Jeff Romero said he thought the ruling "was the correct decision." He said he expects to take the case to the grand jury in the next two weeks.

Malloy, a popular local Roman Catholic priest and a longtime volunteer police chaplain, was arrested Dec. 17. Prosecutors and police have refused to detail the reasons for his arrest.

Mary Ryland, communications director for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, said Malloy remains on "restricted status," which means he can't preside over public worship or Mass, but "can celebrate private Mass" such as for an order of nuns.

Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled Friday before Blackmer to try to determine who leaked information from the sealed affidavits to a television reporter.


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