The Manhattan judge in the case of a prominent Broadway actor who is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl issued a temporary gag order Wednesday, directing lawyers to refrain from talking to the news media.
State Supreme Court Justice Micki Scherer issued the order after Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal complained that lawyers for James Barbour had “made baseless claims to discredit the victim and influence prospective jurors.”
Barbour, 40, who played the beast in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” pleaded not guilty Dec. 6 to charges of sexual abuse and criminal sex act against a 15-year-old aspiring actress.
Barbour was starring in “Jane Eyre” in 2001 when a high school drama teacher arranged for the girl and her parents to see the musical. The girl, now 20, came backstage alone after the show, and Barbour began touching her sexually, prosecutors said.
Barbour’s lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, said the gag order was unfair because Rosenthal had made public statements that he wanted to rebut. He was apparently referring to her remarks that the actor committed similar sexual acts against an underaged girl in California about seven years ago.
Rosenthal said that if the New York case goes to trial, she will try to introduce evidence regarding the uncharged California case.
Fischetti also said the district attorney’s office had set up a hot line to receive calls about Barbour. He said he wanted to do something similar.
“I want to put up a hot line with her name on it (and place it) in the newspapers,” Fischetti told the judge. “I want to have people call me on the basis of other claims that she had made. We believe that this alleged victim has made these false allegations before.”
Scherer said she would not permit Fischetti to set up a hot line. She said she would require lawyers for both sides to refrain from commenting on the case until she decides in two to three weeks whether to make the gag order permanent.
“The press will be limited to the record made here today,” the judge said.
Scherer set a schedule to submit motions and told the parties to return to court Feb. 7. She said she would decide then whether to continue the gag order.
The gag order request led to a shouting match between Fischetti and Rosenthal in the hallway outside Scherer’s courtroom. A court officer from another room came out, told the lawyers to quiet down and take the argument somewhere else.
At the start of the proceeding, the judge scolded Barbour for being 45 minutes late; he had been due in court at 9:30 a.m. She cautioned that if he arrived late again, “there will be consequences.”
Fischetti said Barbour, currently living and working in California, arrived on a flight from the West Coast shortly after midnight Wednesday morning.