3:03 PM--Rifqa and her attorneys arrive. Her parents are not present. They are likely back in Ohio.
An overflow crowd is watching the proceedings in another courtroom via a video feed.
Attorneys for Rifqa, her parents, FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement], DCF [Department of Children and Families] and a media outlet are in the courtroom.
An FDLE investigation report into this case was sealed today by the judge and the media will argue for its release. An FDLE attorney wants to know what is to happen to the report, which has not been released to either party.
3:15pm - Judge Dawson has entered the room. The parents are joining the hearing via speakerphone.
The judge requested if a date for mediation has been set. It has not, pending depositions in the case. Judge Dawson is pressing attorneys to move forward on mediation and not wait for depositions.
The judge is taking up the request of the Orlando Sentinel to be a party to the dependency case. The media outlet is responding to the judge's decision to seal an FDLE report on the claims made by the teenager.
Rifqa ran away from her Ohio home after she converted to Christianity from Islam and felt threatened by her father. The 17 year old is in foster care in Orange County.
FDLE wants the seal order clarified, since both parties have not seen it.
The attorney for Bary's father says "there is a need for information out there" and requests the judge allow the media more access to the family court's documents.
Her attorney argues against it, saying this is a "private matter."
The judge denied the Sentinel's request to be notified of proceedings in this matter. He did not curtail each party's right to talk publicly about the case, including the relase of documents filed in this case.
Rifqa's attorney, John Stemberger, said he prefers the court see the FDLE report, just completed today, and choose whether to release it to the parties. However, the judge said legal documentation usually works the opposite way with the parties getting it first.
DCF requests each party receive the FDLE report, but the contents not be allowed to be leaked to anyone else.
Judge Dawson ordered the report released to the parties and has given them 10 days to say why they would want to release it or keep it from others. After that, the documents would be made available under the normal restrictions of juvenile court.
A video tape of FDLE's questionng of Rifqa is part of the report.
Copies of the report are being handed to the lawyers.
The judge is moving on to the arraignment portion of this hearing. Both parents deny their daughter's allegations.
Attorney Stemberger is requesting the parents at the mediation, which would take place in Orlando. The judge said he would require their presence by phone, if they cannot afford to travel from Ohio.
After a meeting at the bench, the judge said "We have plenty of attorneys in this case, I'm not sure adding more would assist this."
However, he said, if Rifqa needs more attorneys, then he might allow it at a later time.
He is taking up a gag order requested by the girl's guardian.
The attorney for the Sentinel is being allowed to address the request. He is telling the court that gag orders are usually approved in jury trials. In this case, there is no jury and the judge will make the decision on Rifqa's request.
The gag order would not restrict the media from the court, but would limit what the parties can say about this case.
A DCF attorney says she is getting calls from children who are distraught about the media's coverage.
"There are adults who are parading this about the media," she said.
"This is absolutely causing problems in this case," she added.
Rifqa's attorney said the girl "wants my story to be told."
The attorney for Mr. Bary said the "hypocrisy is clear."
He said Stemberger is calling news conferences to make claims against the family, but now wants a gag order that would keep the parents from defending themselves.
"Where is his (Bary's) right to stand up and say "look not at my religion but look at how I raise my family?'"
"If you agree with this gag order, you are saying the other party cannot have their story told."
The attorney for Bary's mother added that "there's nothing in this (FDLE) report that supports the girl's claim."
The attorney for DCF cried out that his statement violates the judge's order not to release anything about the report for at least 10 days.
The attorneys were called to the bench.
Back at their seats, the attorneys continue to argue their cases.
Here's an update:
The parents' lawyer is attacking Stemburger and the Lorenzes for publicizing the case. He also earlier mentioned an attack on Islam and Muslims.
The judge is saying that both sides have gotten plenty of media coverage. He agrees that the more media attention Rifqa gets, the less safe she is. He grants the gag order, but only the attorneys. They are to discuss only procedural issues with the media. The parents' lawyer says English is their 2nd language, and he is gagging people who can speak for them. Judge replies that it is not his job to provide interpreters for people who want to talk to the media -- and that they can get other people to speak for them. After the case is resolved, he said, you can write your novel or produce your miniseries or do whatever you want to do.
Now they're discussing Rifqa's citizenship status. And now on to the question of jurisdiction. The mother's new attorney has just filed a new motion saying this court has no jurisdiction. The guardian ad litem says that has already been decided, and you don't get 2 bites of the apple. Now the parents' lawyer says that Ohio Child Protective Services won't file a case because they don't think she is in danger, but FL only has jurisdiction because Ohio has not filed a case, setting up a catch 22. He says that if they have to, they will file a case in Ohio charging that Rifqa is an unruly delinquent. The judge says essentially that if another case is filed, jurisdiction will be reconsidered.
Now they're discussing procedures regarding visitation rights. She has had supervised contact with her brother. The department (not sure of what) is seeking to limit visitation with Pastor Lorenz and his wife. Now the parents' lawyer is saying that the Lorenzes and their children and the Global Revolution Church should be restricted from seeing the child. He says that because of the gag on attorneys, Stemburger, who has a habit of grandstanding, will use the church to do his "dirty work."
Stemburger says Alahi (sp.?) -- the parents' lawyer -- is the one who is grandstanding, and that he has provided accurate information. He says that the Lorenzes' children are Rifqa's friends and provide her comfort. The judge says he will allow them to continue to visit Rifqa. Parents' lawyer says Mohamed Bary has not lost his parental rights, and he has a say in who sees his child. He says the Lorenzes hid Rifqa for two and a half weeks while Ohio was looking for her. The judge says that no allegations have actually been made against the Lorenzes' children. And he adds that even her own siblings should not be discussing this case.
The parents' lawyer says that mediation will be useless. "I'm trying to help the court" by saying this, he says. The judge says that he doesn't see how he is helping the court by complaining that mediation won't work. They agree to set a date for mediation. Also the guardian ad litem asks that the child start counseling, and that should later expand to family counseling. Some say she has already started it. The judge suggests medication, and the guardian says Rifqa objects to that. One of Rifqa's attorneys wants to know the persepective of the counselor.
The parents' attorney wants the judge to appoint an attorney ad litem for Rifqa. He says Stemburger is agenda-driven. The judge says he should file a motion to that effect, but that Rifqa wants Stemburger and he will respect that. He says that it seems that Alahi wants a new attorney who will have a different view from Stemburger's of what is in the child's best interests. But he will not appoint one now.
September 29 -- next hearing. SOURCE