Beaufort News

Contempt hearing for Lanese postponed

A contempt-of-court hearing Tuesday for Brian Lanese, his wife and their attorney was postponed because of another trial, and it is unclear when that next phase of their protracted legal tussle with Beaufort County might take place.

Lanese, brutally beaten in his Bluffton backyard in 2008, is suing the county alleging that the paramedics who treated him the night he was attacked failed to provide him adequate care or follow EMS protocols.

A confidentiality order signed by Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen was to prevent public disclosure of the paramedics' personnel files, obtained by attorneys during their preparation for the trial.

Robert Achurch, the attorney defending the county, alleges in court filings that Lanese, his wife, Tracy, and their attorney, Joel Bailey of Beaufort, violated the confidentiality order.

All three submitted affidavits to the court Friday indicating they have not improperly divulged protected information.

The Laneses' affidavits say the contempt charge has brought emotional hardship, for which they have sought counseling, and financial hardship, as they have sought advice from another attorney.

The information that became public was included in an amended lawsuit filed May 11, which detailed the two paramedics' disciplinary records. Before filing the lawsuit, Bailey warned Judge Mullen and Achurch that the allegations could bring media attention, Bailey's affidavit states.

"Judge Mullen remarked that the case had already been tried in the press; Mr. Achurch did not express any concern," Bailey wrote.

After a reporter with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette contacted both attorneys for comment about the amended lawsuit, Achurch and Bailey corresponded about whether to seal records further, according to a May 19 email exchange filed with the court.

"We may need to ask the court to seal or restrict the records," Achurch wrote. "Will you agree to this?"

Bailey said he would ask the Laneses, but he expressed concern about the suggestion.

"That will probably invoke a suit by the media to unseal," he wrote, "and I doubt my clients want to be named as a party in that."

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/eyeonbeaufortco.

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