Other records denied in case filed on behalf of journalist working with the victim


December 23, 2013

CONTACT: Tyler Richard, (402) 476-8091 x104, trichard@aclunebraska.org

LINCOLN - A lawsuit was filed today on behalf of journalist Emily Bazelon and web-based magazine Slate alleging that the Lincoln Police Department has failed to comply with Nebraska's Public Records Act. The lawsuit, filed by the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School and the ACLU of Nebraska, states that Bazelon is working with an alleged sexual assault victim. The alleged assault was reported to LPD years ago, but the victim has been denied access to any information about steps taken by the LPD to investigate, even being denied information about what was done with her own rape kit.

The lawsuit stems from a police report filed in June of 2004. To the victim's knowledge, no thorough investigation was conducted due to the prominence in Nebraska athletics of the alleged perpetrator. Nearly ten years later, the case is marked open even though charges have never been filed. A letter from the victim to LPD from Nov. 2013 requested that the case be marked closed and the records released to Bazelon.

The victim has been in contact with Bazelon due to a series of articles written by Bazelon on the subject of rape by college players. In a Dec. 2013 article, Bazelon expressed concerns about the lack of prosecutions in such cases.

The Yale clinic is dedicated to protecting access to government information and promoting robust investigative journalism. According to Conor Clarke, a Yale law student working on the case, Ms. Bazelon's lawsuit raises fundamental issues about the ability of citizens to monitor the actions of police.

The Nebraska ACLU, which is serving as local counsel, states that their concerns are simply about access to records. "If Lincoln Police have a legitimate reason to drop an investigation and not pursue charges, the person who reported the crime has a right to know those reasons," said Amy Miller, Legal Director for the ACLU of Nebraska. "The law enforcement exemption to the Public Records Act was not meant to prevent someone from learning the results of their complaint, and certainly not meant to deny someone access to the results of their own rape kit."

The lawsuit, citing the Public Records Act, states "when a public body denies a request for records, [a government agency] must provide a full description of the contents of the records withheld and a statement of the specific reasons for denial, correlating specific portions of the records to specific reasons for denial." According to the lawsuit, multiple attempts to obtain the records were denied without any cause stated.


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