Court documents obtained by two media sources released to public after order in place

SAN LUIS OBISPO — After the first arraignment hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores on Apr. 15, Honorable Judge Craig Van Rooyen signed a protective order for the case.

The District Attorney’s office filed felony criminal complaints against Paul Flores (44) and his father Ruben Flores (80) on Wednesday, Apr. 14. 

The charge against Paul Flores is the murder of Kristin Smart, and Ruben Flores is charged with accessory after the fact to murder. 

Attorney Robert Sanger submitted the protective order on behalf of his defendant Paul Flores. There was no objection from either counsel.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

The protective order states the order applies to the following people:

  • Parties to this action
  • Attorneys connected with this case, including prosecutors, defense counsel, and their investigators
  • Law enforcement officers, including deputies of the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department
  • Court clerks and bailiffs
  • Witnesses
  • Judicial officers or employees
  • Any agent, deputy, or employee of the persons listed above

The protective order originally included public officials, however, Judge Van Rooyen requested public officials be removed.

Judge Van Rooyen also clarified that public employees of the court would have to coordinate with the press to let them know the times and locations and how things are being broadcast.

However, late at night on Apr. 19, two media sources shared snippets of bail reports for Paul and Ruben Flores. 

The snippets included statements made from Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peurville, Detective Cole, and the Smart family on Apr. 15 and Apr. 16. 

Detective Cole stated he was against bail for the defendant, Paul Flores because they [sheriffs] are in possession of “biological evidence that makes them believe the victim was buried under the defendant’s father’s deck at one time. Detective Cole stated that both the defendant and his father are involved, and it is a family crime. Detective Cole said that should the defendant be released, he could move the body again.”

One statement from Peurvelle regarding Ruben Flores reads:

“Ruben Flores has repeatedly lied over the course of 24 years and has been uncooperative with law enforcement with the specific intent of aiding Paul Flores with escape prosecution. The excavation below his deck at 710 White Court showed damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved. Ruben Flores has done everything possible to help his son, Paul Flores, keep the remains of Kristin Smart hidden. Additionally, due to the evidence gleaned from the excavation, it is reasonable to believe that Ruben Flores currently knows the location of Kristin Smart’s remains. Should he be allowed bail, it is a virtual certainty that he would use his freedom to continue his attempts to help Paul Flores thwart the prosecution in this case and continue to hide her remains. In the strongest possible terms, the People request that bail for Ruben Flores be set at no-bail because $250,000 is insufficient”.

Both statements reveal important information about the case that was unknown to the public, including the recent movement of the remains from the White Court home of Ruben Flores in Arroyo Grande. 

After reaching out to the Smart’s attorney’s office, Robert Sanger’s attorney office, and Harold Mesick, all were under the impression that these documents were meant to be sealed and not released to the public due to the protective order in place.

Tony Cipolla, Public Information Officer for the SLO County Sheriff’s Department, was only able to confirm that the documents shared were not from the sheriff’s department. 

According to all the parties contacted, each were aware of the “snippets” circling the web today but could not comment any further on the matter. 

According to the courthouse operations manager, the bail reports mentioned are not public information due to the protective order.

Essentially, the protective order in place for the Flores case states that none of the mentioned persons shall release any documents, exhibits, or other evidence connected with this case in any way, shape, or form. 

This includes the possibility of any document, exhibit, or other evidence or the identity of witnesses.

A more common or slang term for this would be a “gag order: a judge’s order that a case may not be discussed in public.”

If any person listed “believes it is necessary to issue a public statement in response to adverse publicity, they can make an application to the court for permission to make such a statement.”

The order is to remain in effect until further order of the court.

We have reached out to the district attorney’s office for further detail in this matter and will update when new information is available.