Public defender issues notice to block media contact with Colorado Springs client

August 1, 2013 Updated: August 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Against the advice of his attorney, first-degree murder suspect Otto J. Pobanz spoke with The Gazette in an exclusive interview, declaring his innocence and unwavering love for the widow of the man that he is suspected of killing.

As a consequence Pobanz' attorney, Deputy State Public Defender Eydie Elkins, issued an unprecedented "notice of refusal of media contact," barring all news media from speaking with Pobanz without first contacting her.

The interview was published July 11 in an article that summarized the conversation that ensued through a video screen at the El Paso County visitation center, where no recording devices or notepads are allowed.

Pobanz' attorney immediately expressed her disapproval of the interview, arguing that The Gazette had not contacted her prior to scheduling the visitation and that the reporter had not made clear to prison staff she was a member of the media.

The Gazette tried to contact Elkins on several occasions prior to arranging a visit with Pobanz, but numerous calls went unanswered. Pobanz is accused in the June 24 killing of William Walsh.

Defendants awaiting trial in criminal cases generally are advised not to publicly discuss their case.

During a conversation between The Gazette and Samantha Walsh, William Walsh's widow, Samantha brought up the possibility of an interview with Pobanz.

"He said he would be willing to speak with a reporter from The Gazette," Walsh said.

At the beginning of the video interview, Pobanz confirmed the reporter was with The Gazette and even joked that if he got out of prison, he'd have enough material for the reporter to "write a book, as long as you give me royalties."

Pobanz said he did not know how Colorado Springs police linked him to the killing, arguing that he was nowhere near East Bijou Street, where the victim was last seen on the night of his death.

During the 30-minute interview, Pobanz admitted to having drug and anger issues, for which he said he has sought help. He repeatedly spoke of his love for Samantha Walsh, with whom he's had an on-and-off relationship for a decade.

Elkins told The Gazette that she had explicitly advised her client not to speak with any member of the media.

"He is mentally ill, he doesn't know what he's doing," she argued.

When asked if his mental state would play a part in his defense, Elkins declined to comment.

Christopher Beall, an attorney for The Gazette, said the notice signed by Elkins and delivered to the newsroom "is a document that has no real legal clout" even though it was filed in the district and county courts of El Paso County.

"The notice serves as a way to get the media to leave my client alone, and if it takes that piece of paper to get you to do so, then that's what it's for," Elkins said in a phone interview last week.

Elkins argued that if the staff at the visitation center had known that a reporter was trying to interview Pobanz, they would not have allowed the interview.

The reporter scheduled the visitation with Pobanz 48 hours in advance and made it clear that she was with The Gazette; she presented her driver's license and press badge when signing in.

In fact, anyone can schedule a visit with any inmate at the El Paso County jail for any reason; being a relative or a friend is not a requirement.

According to court records, Walsh and Pobanz are banned from contact, as a protection order stemming from a domestic violence incident on June 11 remains in effect. Elkins had no comment regarding how Walsh knew that Pobanz would speak with The Gazette, or if he had somehow gotten a message to her.

Pobanz' next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 5.

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