LOS ANGELES, Jun. 16 – The chief prosecutor in the Sharon Tate murder case faced a contempt of court hearing today on defense changes that he violated a judicial order by giving a published pretrial interview.
The hearing for Deputy Dist. Atty. Aaron H. Stovitz was scheduled before the opening of the murder-conspiracy trial of four hippie-style clan members in the slayings of the actress and six others.
Paul Fitzgerald, attorney for defendant Patricia Krenwinkel, 22, filed the contempt charge. The maximum sentence is a $500 fine and three days in jail.
Opening of the trial was delayed Monday as Fitzgerald — joined by attorneys for Charles Manson, 35, Leslie Van Houten, 20, and Susan Atkins, 21 — asked dismissal of all charges because of the “insidious and virulent influence of pretrial publicity.”
Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older asked defense and prosecution to file declarations and evidence concerning the motion and said he would consider it until June 25. Jury selection will proceed meanwhile.
The interview in question appeared in The Rolling Stone, a newspaper published in San Francisco and appealing largely to young people. It purports to present the prosecution’s evidence against Manson’s roving clan. Fitzgerald says it includes details of the bizarre killings not made public before.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Vincent T. Bugliosi, co-prosecutor, said in court that the interview was not so widely disseminated as to affect the trial. The paper claims a circulation of 325,000,
Later, Bugliosi told newsmen the Stovitz interview had been off the record and shouldn’t have been published.
In other action Monday, the trial of a fifth defendant, Linda Kasabian, 21, was formally severed from that of the others. The judge postponed until Aug. 17 a hearing on her trial date. But her attorney and the prosecution said she probably would not go to trial.
“Let’s face it,” said Bugliosi, “Linda Kasabian will probably be a star witness for the prosecution, and as such she will be granted immunity.”