11/10/2006

FBI article about Vt. killing questioned

The Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Vt.- Attorneys for a man accused of killing a University of Vermont student want the charges dismissed, saying their client can't get a fair trial because of what an FBI agent wrote in a weekly newspaper.

The FBI agent, writing as "An Anonymous Cop," described his personal reaction to the search for the man accused of abducting 21-year-old Michelle Gardner-Quinn as she walked toward campus on Oct. 7 and killing her.

He referred to the suspect as "evil," a "sexual predator" and a "two-legged hyena." FBI spokesman Paul Holstein said the author of the article, which appeared Wednesday in the weekly Seven Days newspaper, was an FBI agent.

"We're not happy with it, and we'll take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again," Holstein said. "We take it very seriously when we have an unauthorized media contact, and it also is an issue because we have a policy that we do not discuss ongoing investigations or prosecutions."

Defense attorney David Sleigh filed a motion a day after the article appeared asking that the charges against Brian Rooney be dismissed.

"Agents of the state have deliberately disseminated highly inflammatory and prejudicial comments to the press," Sleigh wrote.

Rooney, 36, has pleaded not guilty to murder. If convicted, he could face life in prison without parole.

Rooney is not named in the agent's article, but it's clear he is the subject.

Seven Days co-publisher and editor Pamela Polston said the paper granted the request for anonymity after verifying the author's identity.

"We stand behind the freedom of expression of every citizen, including that of law-enforcement officers, and, like all newspapers, offer a forum to our readers for that expression," she said.

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On the Net:

http://www.sevendaysvt.com/

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