County to Charge Media $51,000 for Spot Near Peterson Trial Courthouse

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The sidewalk in front of the courthouse where Scott Peterson (search) will face trial has become one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the San Francisco Bay area.

Television stations seeking a spot outside the San Mateo County (search) courthouse during Peterson's murder trial must pay $51,000, county officials announced Friday. The trial is expected to last six months and could cost the county millions.

"We're not trying to put anybody in a box," said Steve Alms, county real property services manager. "We're trying to be fiscally responsible for the citizens of San Mateo County."

Peterson, 31, is accused of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son. He could face the death penalty if convicted of two counts of murder. The trial was moved from Modesto (search) because of publicity there.

The 16 spaces, which are approximately 13 feet by 17 feet, will be used for television reporters to store equipment, work and conduct interviews. Each station must provide its own tent.

In addition, television stations must pay $7,500 for space to park their satellite trucks. Twenty spaces set aside for journalists in a nearby lot cost $200 a month each. Reporters are not being charged for space in a media center about a block away.

Altogether, the fees would raise $816,000 for the county, about a third of which has already been spent on preparations for the trial, Alms said.

Alms' announcement of the fees prompted a stunned silence, then laughter in a briefing room filled with dozens of reporters, photographers and camera operators planning to cover the trial.

"In 24 years in this business, I've never seen anything like this cost this kind of money," said Chip Vaughan, who works for KTVU, the Oakland-based Fox affiliate. Vaughan said his station could not keep the spot it had reserved because of the fee.

Also Friday, Mark Geragos (search), Scott Peterson's lawyer, filed papers seeking a delay in the trial because it conflicts with another murder trial the lawyer is handling.