A judge has ruled that prosecutors in a case stemming from a fatal car crash involving a former "Melrose Place" actress can seek the identity of a person who claimed on a newspaper website that he was a witness and that authorities were "lying about the facts."
Tuesday's ruling allows prosecutors to order NJ.com, the website of The Star-Ledger of Newark, to turn over the information of the reader who posted the comments about the June 2010 crash.
Prosecutors say TV and movie actress Amy Locane-Bovenizer, of Hopewell, was driving drunk at the time of the crash. They say her sport utility vehicle hit a sedan driven by a Montgomery man who was turning into his driveway, killing the man's wife.
Locane-Bovenizer, who played Sandy Louise Harling in the original "Melrose Place" television series in the early 1990s, is charged with aggravated manslaughter. She has pleaded not guilty.
At Tuesday's status conference, her lawyer, Blair Zwillman, told the judge that the motion by prosecutors was unnecessary because he had already learned that the website poster was his client's husband, Mark Bovenizer.
But Somerset County assistant prosecutor Matthew Murphy argued that it was important for investigators to verify whether the poster really was a witness to the accident.
Superior Court Judge Angela Borkowski agreed, saying that while citizens should have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using the Internet, the reader's identity is "relevant and material" to the case.
The reader's comments appeared in response to a Jan. 28 story on NJ.com about Locane-Bovenizer's plea hearing. They were under the username defense 44.
"We view this as a legitimate court order in a criminal matter, and we intend to comply," said Colleen Stone, content director for NJ.com.
Locane-Bovenizer, who also has appeared in movies such as "Airheads" and "Legend of the Mummy," has been free on $50,000 bail. She could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Information from: Courier News, http://www.mycentraljersey.com