Evidence in the alleged rape of a Louisiana State University sophomore leaked for months, prompting a court hearing and settlement between the two sides to limit future public release of documents.
The issue has been building since four men were arrested in connection with the alleged rape of Madison Brooks in January. The LSU student was left on the side of a road, where she stumbled into the street and was killed by an oncoming car.
Things came to a boiling point at the end of July, when one of the suspect’s lawyers, Joe Long, leaked Brooks’ autopsy and lab report to WBRZ, a local news outlet in Baton Rouge.
The day after the story aired, the district attorney moved to restrict access to evidence for all four suspects’ lawyers.
Hearing and reading details about the leaked autopsy took “an emotional toll” on Brooks’ family, her mother Ashley Baustert told Fox News Digital in a previous interview.
After the two sides reached an agreement on Aug. 1, Baustert’s lawyer, Kerry Miller, said he “hopes the defense abides by the rules.”
“We’re glad the defense will stop leaking snippets to the media,” Miller said. “They’re trying to shape public perception that’s nowhere close to what actually happened that night.”
Ron Haley, a defense lawyer representing one of the suspects, said the DA chose to indict each suspect individually but restricted evidentiary access to all the lawyers in the case whether they were involved in the leak or not.
“Although the DA has concerns about leaks, he chose to keep the cases separated, yet my discovery access was restricted in this case and in a separate case,” Haley said.
In an email, Long said he sent the autopsy to WBRZ in response to a Nancy Grace’s Fox Nation episode, called “Left for Dead,” to protect his client.
“The protective order will prevent any party from disclosing discovery to third parties that are not part of their law firm,” Long said outside the courthouse after the hearing, according to local news outlet The Advocate. “It’s very common to do that, and we’ve agreed to it.”
How Madison Brooks died
Brooks, 19, was about to start the second half of her sophomore year at LSU on Jan. 14, 2023, when she went out for the night to Reggie’s, a bar in the crime-ridden university social hot spot known as “Tigerland.”
Sometime between her last text to Baustert, at 11:38 p.m., and 3 a.m. the next morning, Brooks was allegedly raped, and the suspects are four men she met at the bar.
Desmond Carter, 17; Casen Carver, 18; Everett Lee, 28; and Kaivon Washington, 18, were all arrested in connection with the alleged assault.
Washington and Carter are accused of raping Brooks, and Carver, who drove the car, along with Lee allegedly facilitated the crime, prosecutors said.
The suspects, through their lawyers, denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
History of leaks in the case
Brooks’ autopsy was the latest leak.
Before that, a couple of short videos that paint Brooks in a negative light were aired on local news stations.
WATCH: LEAKED VIDEO OF BROOKS LEAVING BAR
The first clip was a 4-second video obtained by local news outlet WAFB about two weeks after Brooks died that appeared to show her jogging behind her suspected attackers as they left Reggie’s Bar.
The second clip, a 29-second video from inside the suspect’s car, was obtained by WBRZ and aired on Feb. 13, along with an interview with the suspects’ lawyers.
The evidential videos have not been released in their entirety, to date, but are in the hands of the Baton Rouge District Attorney Office, which is prosecuting the case.
The DA’s office secured grand jury indictments against three of the four suspects on the state’s most severe sexual assault charge, which is punishable by life in prison.
Full DA statement after autopsy leak
The DA’s office issued a lengthy statement after the autopsy leak that said it filed a protective order to prevent future discovery being placed in the public record “and handed out in a piecemeal fashion to protect our ability to present a fair case for the State, its victim and these defendants.”
“These documents were not placed in the public record but only given to these offices. We will continue to abide by our discovery obligations and file these matters with the court,” the DA’s office said on July 28.
“The discovery that was provided as ‘read only.’ It is obvious from the audit trail who received and viewed what evidence and how many times such was viewed. The source will be obvious.”
It was learned that the source was Long, who is representing Carver.
“We have never provided any discovery to the media, and we will continue to not try this case in the media but in the court in the best interest of all parties involved,” the DA said in the statement.
“Based on the release of this information we will seek a protective order to prevent future discovery being placed in the public record and handed out in a piecemeal fashion to protect our ability to present a fair case for the State, its victim and these defendants.”
By Monday, the issue went before a judge and was resolved.
Long previously said a jury trial could happen within the next eight months.