A judge said Friday he will unseal transcripts of secret grand jury proceedings in the Charles H. Keating Jr. securities fraud case but delayed disclosure for a week to give lawyers a chance to appeal.
Superior Court Judge Lance Ito rejected arguments by lawyers for the Arizona developer and his co-defendants, who said publicity surrounding such a disclosure would damage the chances of finding unbiased jurors for the trial.Ito accepted the position of lawyers for the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times, which argued that First Amendment case law supports free access to court records.
The judge said he would excise from the 4,600-page transcript the prosecution's opening statement and closing argument, which he said were slanted against the defendants and might be prejudicial.
"If I am not precluded by any higher court, I will order next Friday for the grand jury reporter to disseminate transcripts to anyone with a checkbook," the judge said.
The grand jury stenographer sells transcripts he produces.
Keating, the former head of American Continental Corp., was jailed for 33 days on a 42-count indictment. He posted a reduced bail of $300,000 last week.
American Continental controlled the Irvine-based Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. Experts have estimated Lincoln's failure may cost taxpayers $2 billion, making it the costliest thrift failure yet.
Keating and three top officials at his companies are charged with setting up a scheme to steer elderly investors away from government-insured certificates of deposits at Lincoln branches and into risky "junk bonds" issued by American Continental.