MONDAY UPDATE: A Broward judge Monday declined to force prosecutors to turn over to a criminal defendant a copy of the television talent contract of a sheriff’s deputy who arrested him on camera in January.
Instead, after hearing the state say it doesn’t have the talent contract, Judge David Haimes suggested that the Broward Public Defender’s Office issue a subpoena for the document to the companies that produce Deputy Andrea Penoyer’s show,Policewomen of Broward County.
“It is likely we’ll do that, but first we’ll explore the judge’s ruling today to determine whether we have any appellate remedy,” said Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes.
The show’s producers, who have resisted disclosure of the contract claiming it is a “trade secret,” are Discovery Communications and RelativityREAL LLC. The cable television show appears on the TLC network.
Company attorney Michael Wrubel would not comment.
By Dan Christensen and Wanda DeMarzo, BrowardBulldog.org
Reality television meets reality in a Broward courtroom Thursday when defense lawyers will seek to compel prosecutors to produce a copy of a BSO deputy’s “talent” contract with the producers of the show Policewomen of Broward County.
The corporate rights of the TV show’s production company is pitted against the civil rights of a man arrested on the program in a small time drug bust.
In a twist, prosecutors aren’t the ones making the arguments to keep Deputy Andrea Penoyer’s contract under wraps. Rather, lawyers for the television shows’ producers – Discovery Communications and RelativityREAL, LLC –will argue the company’s claim that protecting trade secrets should trump a defendant’s right to discover helpful information for his legal defense.
Broward’s Public Defender’s Office wants a look at the contract of Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Andrea Penoyer, one of the TV show’s stars. The office also seeks the show’s contracts with other deputy-stars in its defense of six additional defendants.
Penoyer, who is paid an unknown amount to appear on the show, arrested defendant Kevin E. Wallace on camera last January for selling a small amount of cocaine in a buy-bust in Pompano Beach. She’s listed as a principal witness for the state.
But when prosecutors produced background information about the case to the Public Defender’s Office – material the state must turn over to criminal defendants – Penoyer’s Policewomen contract wasn’t included.
“The Office of the State Attorney…has effectively relinquished its discovery obligation to a tabloid TV show,” say court papers filed by Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes. Weekes called Policewomen of Broward County, which appears on the TLC cable television network, “train-wreck television that exploits victims and arrestees alike for shock value and ratings.”
Authorities don’t have a copy
Representatives for Broward State Attorney Michael Satz and Sheriff Al Lamberti each said Tuesday that they can’t turn over the contracts because they don’t have copies of them.
“We have no objection to the contracts being presented. It will be our position that, if the documents are at some point presented, the court should inspect the documents to determine if they do or do not contain favorable evidence to the accused,” said Satz spokesman Ron Ishoy.
“We did not scrutinize their contracts. Our 5,600 employees occasionally enter into contracts in their private lives without consulting BSO legal advisors or administration. It is their responsibility to avoid conflicts of interest,” said BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal.
Wallace’s defense contends his arrest is “inextricably intertwined” with the show, and wants to review the contract’s terms and determine whether the detective had any hidden conflicting interests.
“Entertainment contracts often lure talent with money awards for benchmarks on performance, fan base, number of viewers, renewal options, licensing, and the possibility of spin-off series. The defendant is entitled to know the details of Penoyer’s contract,” court papers say.
Nova Southeastern University law professor Bruce Rogow, a veteran criminal defense lawyer agrees.
“They are entitled when the contract relates specifically to the officer who makes the arrest,” Rogow told Broward Bulldog. “The state should make arrangements to get it.”
The Public Defender’s Office represents seven defendants charged with various crimes during the show. Penoyer and two other deputy/stars, Julie Bowers and Erika Huerta, were hit with subpoenas demanding that they produce their contracts.
Bowers and Huerta talked with defense counsel about complying, but ultimately didn’t after speaking with Dana McElroy, a Fort Lauderdale media attorney who represents Discovery Communications, court papers say.
McElroy was out of town and unavailable for comment. Her co-counsel, Michael Jay Wrubel of Davie, declined comment.
Not a new battle
Discovery has yet to formally reply to Wallace’s motion to compel, which was filed last week. But in another small drug sting case that was filmed involving defendant Neal Weinstein, in which Penoyer was one of several arresting officers, the company argued that the defendant’s claim of need to see Penoyer’s contract was a “red herring.”
“Deputy Penoyer is not such an important prosecution witness that defendant’s inability to obtain the documents will impermissibly impinge upon his Sixth Amendment rights,” the company’s court filings say.
Why is the defense trying so hard to keep the contracts out of the public record?
“Such contracts are jealously guarded by the producers because of the fierce competition in the reality show industry,” and contain “conditions that are not in any sense obvious,” the company’s filing says.
The hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday before Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes.