A judge who was criticized by First Amendment experts for restricting media coverage of a Standish attorney’s domestic assault case on Monday re-opened the proceeding Wednesday and admitted he made a mistake.

Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz  appeared in a courtroom in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland before a crowd of about 35 people, mostly members of the media and curious lawyers, as he issued an apology.

“It’s certainly very clear that this particular order was not lawful and I should not have issued it,” Moskowitz said. “That order is now rescinded.”

On Monday, Moskowitz had told members of the media that they were forbidden from reporting anything the defendant, attorney Anthony J. Sineni III, said in court or any of the witness testimony.

The Portland Press Herald defied the gag order Tuesday, publishing a story about the hearing that included witness testimony.

The newspaper’s attorney, Sigmund Schutz, said on Monday evening that there is a “100 percent chance” that the judge’s order was unlawful. Other First Amendment experts followed on Tuesday to decry the order as a clear constitutional violation.

Monday’s session was a plea hearing and sentencing, during which Sineni did not admit any wrongdoing but acknowledged there was enough evidence to find him guilty on charges of assault and disorderly conduct.

In exchange for the plea, one misdemeanor count of domestic violence assault was dismissed against Sineni for allegedly attacking his ex-girlfriend, along with three felony counts of witness tampering and a felony count of possession of a stolen gun or guns.

Moskowitz sentenced Sineni to what is called a deferred disposition on the assault charge and the disorderly conduct charge. After one year, the disorderly conduct charge could be dismissed if Sineni stays out of trouble. After two years, the assault charge could be dismissed or Sineni could enter another plea to that charge or a lesser charge. The exact language of the sentence was never stated in court, and the written sentencing agreement also has been ordered sealed.

Winona Hichborn, Sineni’s 34-year-old ex-girlfriend with whom he has three children, was the only witness who spoke during the court hearing. It was her testimony, in which she described her 11-year relationship with Sineni and claims of domestic abuse, that the judge ordered the media not to report.

The domestic assault charge against Sineni that was dismissed was for allegedly striking Hichborn. The assault charge for which he was sentenced was for allegedly striking her male friend, according to Hichborn’s testimony.

“Tony (Sineni) told me before that he is above the law and that if he gets away with this they won’t be able to touch him,” Hichborn testified Monday.

On Monday, Moskowitz had ordered that Sineni’s case file be sealed. He also rescinded that order on Wednesday.

Moskowitz said both orders were “clearly mistakes.”

This story will be updated.

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