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Judge rules defense may keep evidentiary materials in Schaffhausen case

Aaron Schaffhausen

The defense will be able to retain copies of specific sensitive materials in the Aaron Schaffhausen murder case following a hearing Thursday afternoon.

Judge Howard W. Cameron was asked to issue a protective order on the data by state prosecutor Gary Freybeg that would maintain the material with his team and the defense would only be allowed to see copies and then return it.

Freyberg's requested a protection order to block Schaffhausen from taking possession of the material and it could then become part of the public record.

"My concern is that the material is extremely graphic and personal and could cause embarrassment to the victims," Freyberg said.

"The client's copies are his. We want to prevent the defendant from making inappropriate use of the material," he said.

"The essential point is that in the digital age once the Genie is out of the bottle, there is no way to get it back in," Freyberg said.

Public defender John Kuscinski argued that his team and any experts consulted in Schauffhausen's defense would need to retain copies of the evidence proposed under the protective order.

"The protective order is over broad, and goes beyond," what is necessary, he said.

Kucinski said the judge's order only had to state the material was not to be disseminated to Schauffhausen.

"The order applies to everybody on my team but nobody on his (Freyberg's) team, Kucinski said. "An awful lot of people on that side have access."

In the end Judge Cameron ruled that the defense team could have copies of the material and its client could look at but not retain copies and none were to be distributed to the defendant's family members or other third parties.

He cautioned both sides to take as much care as possible with the distribution of the material and ordered that a cover letter and personal statement accompany any copies informing the recipient of the sensitive nature of the data.

"I would not want to look at it again if I had to," the judge said.

Schauffhausen is charged with three counts of homicide and one count of arson in connection with the deaths of his three young daughters in their River Falls home July 10.

The next hearing in the case was set for Nov. 21. Judge Cameron also set aside the entire day on Dec. 3 for motion hearings.