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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge has ordered a temporary stay on the release of federal "mug shots" of accused Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner, after his attorneys argued releasing them would be tantamount to trying him in the media.
In a ruling announced on Friday District Judge Larry Burns stayed the release of U.S. Marshals Service booking photographs of Loughner, 22, pending a court hearing on February 18.
Loughner is charged with the attempted assassination of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and attempting to murder two of her aides in a January 8 shooting rampage outside a Tucson supermarket that killed six people and injured 13.
The order follows an emergency motion lodged by Loughner's attorneys on Thursday, arguing that mug shots are "powerfully associated with criminality."
"Release of the photograph conflicts with the parties' interests in avoiding the case being tried in the media rather than in court," defense attorney Reuben Camper Cahn argued.
He added that mug shots are "inherently private," and "reveal what individuals look like at their most humiliated moment," and argued that their release served no relevant freedom of information interest.
The photograph of Loughner so far released to the media was taken by the Pima County Sheriff's Department after his arrest.
The U.S. Marshals Service mug shots that his attorneys sought to block were taken after he was subsequently booked into federal custody.
Further federal charges are expected to be brought against Loughner, after which he could face prosecution for an array of state crimes.
Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton