A judge said Monday he is inclined to keep open to the public most of the upcoming trial of Spice Girl Melanie Brown’s request for a domestic violence restraining order against her estranged husband, but that he may excuse spectators during some sensitive moments.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Juhas said he is restrained by the First Amendment from ordering a blanket closure of the courtroom, but that he can pause and hear motions by lawyers for Brown or Stephen Belafonte for a possible private setting if the issues involve child visitation or videos of a sexual nature that may exist.

Juhas said that if he completely shuts out the public from the courtroom and someone filed a motion with the 2nd District Court of Appeal, his ruling would likely be overturned “in a heartbeat.”

Brown’s lawyer, Susan Wiesner, said her main reason for wanting the courtroom sealed is that she believes Belafonte may be trying to provide to the media videos of intimate moments between the former couple.

“He is trying to actually do what he has threatened to do for 10 years,” Weisner alleged.

Wiesner said she is obligated to protect her client’s three children from being exposed to any explicit material Belafonte may intend to make public on the Internet. In her court papers, she argues the best way to do that is for the public and the media to be restricted from reporting salacious information about the tapes.

The attorneys agreed to postpone the start of the domestic violence hearing from Monday’s date until Oct. 30 to accommodate the schedules of the lawyers and Brown. In the interim, depositions have been scheduled for Belafonte on Oct. 11 and for Brown on Oct. 16.

Brown, an “America’s Got Talent” judge, has accused Belafonte of emotional and physical abuse during their 10-year union.

In another action, Juhas extended until Oct. 30 a restraining order previously issued in Van Nuys Superior Court on behalf of Brown against the former couple’s ex-nanny, Lorraine Gilles. Juhas also will be considering whether to issue a domestic violence restraining order against Gilles. The singer alleges Gilles is helping Belafonte in his alleged threats to release the sex videos involving Brown.

Brown, 42, filed for divorce from Belafonte on March 20. She attended Monday’s hearing and listened intently to the often heated arguments by the attorneys, occasionally smiling. Belafonte, also 42, was absent.

In addition to the domestic violence restraining order sought by Brown, other issues also remain in the divorce case. Belafonte wants shared custody of his and Brown’s 6-year-old daughter, Madison, and visitation rights to see his stepdaughter Angel, 10, whose father is actor Eddie Murphy.

–City News Service

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