Judge rejects gag order in Severance case in Va.

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LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — A Loudoun County judge on Thursday rejected a request for a gag order from a man wanted for questioning in the shooting deaths of three Alexandria residents.

Charles Severance, 53, of Ashburn, is in jail awaiting trial in Leesburg on a firearms charge, but his case is drawing pervasive media attention because Alexandria police have said they want to question him in the unsolved shooting deaths of three city residents, dating back to 2003. Severance has not been charged in those slayings and police have declined to name his a suspect. His lawyers have described the firearms charge in Loudoun as a sham to hold him while the investigation into the shooting deaths continues.

Severance's lawyer filed a motion to bar lawyers and police in Loudoun County from talking to the media, arguing that statements to the press linking Severance to the Alexandria investigation would make it difficult for him to get a fair trial on the firearms charge.

Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman opposed the motion, arguing that he hadn't said anything that would be prejudicial to Severance.

"The only thing that causes media attention is the filing of motions like this," Plowman said, pointing out the presence of multiple reporters at Thursday's hearing.

The judge on Thursday sided with Plowman, saying she sees no need for a gag order and that no one has said anything that would taint a jury pool.

Severance, who appeared in court from the county jail through a video link, is expected to be back in court Friday on a bond motion. He has so far been denied bond. Plowman said Thursday he will oppose any bond for Severance, who was arrested in West Virginia and fought extradition there all the way to that state's Supreme Court.

In his bond motion, severance's attorney, Edward Ungvarsky, said the firearms charge against his client is weak.

Prosecutors allege that Severance's girlfriend bought two .22-caliber pistols for the suspect. Because Severance has a felony record, he is barred from possessing firearms.

Ungvarsky says in the motion that the guns belonged to the girlfriend, and that she only said they belonged to Severance to curry favor with police so she would not be charged with possession of marijuana.

"He is charged with a low-level felony based upon weak and inaccurate circumstantial evidence," Ungvarsky wrote.

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