CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Conversations that a former police officer charged in the death of an unarmed black motorist had with an insurance carrier after the incident have been sealed by a federal judge.
The order issued by U.S. District Judge David Norton on Wednesday also said the address where Michael Slager is staying should remain confidential for the safety of Slager's family.
The order came in a lawsuit brought by Slager, a former North Charleston officer, against the Southern States Police Benevolent Association.
The suit alleges the insurer didn't provide Slager the legal representation he paid for under his policy following the April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott as Scott fled a traffic stop.
Slager, who is free on bond, faces a murder charge in state court in an October trial. He also faces trial in federal court on charges that he deprived the 50-year-old Scott of his civil rights and other counts. No date for the federal trial has been set.
Scott's shooting was captured on cellphone video by a passerby and reignited the national debate over how blacks are treated by white police officers.
Norton noted that the insurance carrier is defending its position to deny benefits on the policy itself and can't use statements Slager made later as a basis for doing so.
The company has said it denied benefits because the shooting of Scott was outside Slager's duties as a law enforcement officer.
But the judge ruled that the potential harm that revealing the statements could have on Slager's defense in both the state and federal cases far outweighs any interest of the insurance company in using them.
Slager, 34, was released on $500,000 bond in January and has been under house arrest at an undisclosed location. He can leave the house only to attend church, visit the doctor, meet with attorneys and attend court.
Norton refused to allow the address to be released to attorneys for the insurance carrier, saying Slager can be reached through his attorneys.