The judge overseeing the Sean Kratz homicide case issued a gag order Thursday.
During a hearing at the Justice Center in Doylestown Borough, Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey Finley ordered the prosecution and defense team not to discuss the case “in any way” with members of the media until the end of the trial.
The order from the judge came a short time after Kratz’s defense attorney Craig Penglase, who was co-counsel with Niels Eriksen, admitted to leaking audio of Kratz, 21, of Philadelphia, and Cosmo DiNaro, 21, of Bensalem, to NBC 10. Fox 29 also aired a portion of the tapes, but sources have indicated that audio may have leaked from someone other than Penglase.
Penglase was ordered off Kratz’s defense team earlier this week due to a “potential conflict of interest.” Eriksen has remained on the case and has been joined by attorney Keith Williams.
“I was completely unaware of the actions of my co-counsel. I had no part in, and no knowledge of, their release. I remain committed, with the confidence of the court, to defending Sean Kratz,” Eriksen told LevittownNow.com via text message earlier this week.
Penglase has yet to speak publicly about why he leaked the recordings, which hit NBC 10’s website and airwaves just hours after Kratz rejected a plea deal and DiNardo was sentenced to four life sentences for the murder of four young men at his parent’s Solebury farm.
Kratz turning down the deal last Wednesday afternoon shocked Penglase, Eriksen, and prosecutors. The plea agreement had been worked on for more than two weeks and would have put Kratz behind bars for 59 to 118 years.
Kratz could now face the death penalty for his role in the crimes.
The confession tapes that were leaked are expected to play a role in Kratz’s trial. No date has been set, but the trial is likely to happen next year.
The district attorney’s office has made the case that the tapes are not public record at this time.
“We explained that while our office is obligated by the rules of discovery to turn such material over to defense counsel, we as prosecutors are ethically bound to not disclose such material to the general public, so that the integrity of the ongoing litigation is protected,” prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday.
The homicides of Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown; Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; and Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County; and Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township, have captured the attention of local and national media outlets since last summer.