Coke Hed: Pittsburgh Paper Wins Right to See Letters in Drug Case

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The state Superior Court has ruled that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper has a right to see letters submitted to a judge on behalf of a city official convicted of selling cocaine out of his office.

The former city controller’s supervisor, Gilbert Martinez, 66, is serving a five- to 10-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to charges in Dec. 2003.

At Martinez’s 2004 sentencing, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel said she had received numerous letters on Martinez’s behalf, including those from family members and government officials.

The judge refused a request by the Post-Gazette to see the letters because she said they had not been made part of the official court record.

The newspaper appealed the decision, contending the public has “a paramount right” to evaluate the activities of officials, and that there was a public interest in knowing whether officials attempted to excuse or minimize Martinez’s breach of the public trust.

In an 11-page opinion released Tuesday, Judge Jack A. Panella wrote that Judge McDaniel did not have a valid reason for refusing to release the letters.

The court directed Judge McDaniel to make them available to the newspaper. It was unclear Thursday when the letters would be released.

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