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Judge calls Sheriff Keith Pearson’s social videos ‘immature, unprofessional, asinine’ during gag order hearing

<i>Wally Lurz/WPTV via CNN Newsource</i><br/>A judge on the Treasure Coast slammed Sheriff Keith Pearson's latest social media posts during a hearing to consider a gag order on his future social media content.
Wally Lurz/WPTV via CNN Newsource
A judge on the Treasure Coast slammed Sheriff Keith Pearson's latest social media posts during a hearing to consider a gag order on his future social media content.

By Meghan McRoberts

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    FORT PIERCE, Florida (WPTV) — A judge on the Treasure Coast slammed Sheriff Keith Pearson’s latest social media posts during a hearing to consider a gag order on his future social media content.

Circuit Judge Michael Heisey heard arguments Tuesday from Attorney Ashley Minton seeking a gag order after her client was featured in a weekly segment the sheriff calls “Turn Yourself in Tuesday.”

Minton said the posts threaten her client’s chance to have a fair and free trial.

In the segment, Pearson states, “We want to invite 57-year-old Michael Dorst to turn himself in. Dorst has warrants out for his arrest for trafficking fentanyl… Dorst’s last known address was in Port St. Lucie. If you have any information about Dorst’s whereabouts, contact your local law enforcement.”

Minton said she first learned of the capias warrant for her client, Dorst, through social media.

“My reaction was surprise because we didn’t know about that. It’s not public record … so immediately I reached out to them and said, ‘You should have just called me. You don’t need to make TikToks,'” Minton said.

She said the video implies Dorst was on the run, or not complying with the law.

“It’s just not truthful,” Minton said.

“He’s at his house, which they ultimately went and got him at his house,” Minton said. “This case has been going on for two years. He comes to court every time.”

Minton explained a new warrant was issued for Dorst because a change had to be made to a charge. Minton said he was charged with “the wrong drug.”

“He was not a fugitive,” Minton said. “He was an individual who had been charged with a crime and was out on bond and a capias was signed because of the changing of one of the counts.”

Minton asked the judge to impose a gag order against the sheriff when it comes to Dorst’s case.

“The court has inherent power to gag law enforcement from doing things that potentially threaten to poison a jury panel against Mr. Dorst,” Minton said.

Heisey did not grant the gag order but did not rule it out for the future.

Counsel for the sheriff’s office claimed the sheriff was doing as directed under the warrant, saying, “We were doing exactly what we’re required to do by statute is attempt to effectuate service on this warrant. A capias is a warrant to take someone into custody, to take them to jail.”

The judge responded with some tough words.

“[Nowhere] do I see where I am directing Pearson to make an immature, unprofessional, downright asinine video about Mr. Dorst. So do not say in this hearing that I directed Keith Pearson to act in the manner that he acted,” Heisey said. “Nowhere on here does it say to make social media videos asking people to come to “Pearson’s Penthouse” or that he’ll give them a free ride and imply that Mr. Dorst is some sort of fugitive.”

Pearson issued the following statement following the hearing:

“As you know, the court denied defense attorney Ashley Minton’s petition on behalf of her client this morning. It is our role to take any individual with an active warrant into custody. Whether reporting arrests live from the scene of a crime, notifying the public of active warrants, or highlighting the amazing work of the dedicated men and women of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, this agency’s utilization of social media has proven effective, and we encourage the public to continue to follow us to stay informed.”

“It’s just for likes. and that’s not what law enforcement should be doing,” Minton said. “If we’re going to do ‘Turn Yourself in Tuesday’ make it for people who have actually absconded and you can’t find, and you need the citizens’ help to find.”

The judge ended the hearing by stating how the sheriff’s office is also not involved in Dorst’s investigation since it is a Port St. Lucie police case.

“If the sheriff, who as his counsel has pointed out, has nothing to do with this case, decides to continue involving himself in this case and posting these ridiculous videos, then I will have to reevaluate whether a gag order is necessary to make sure Mr. Dorst gets a free trial,” Heisey said.

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