FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Susan B. Kietzman and The Westerly Sun,

 

Complainants

 

against Docket #FIC 86-105

 

Chief of Police of the Town of Stonington,

 

Respondent June 3, 1986

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 6, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter of complaint filed with the Commission on April 18, 1986, the complainants alleged that they were denied rights of access to public records when the respondent refused to provide copies of public records concerning two rapes which occurred in Pawcatuck on August 10, 1985, and August 24, 1985.

 

3. By letter dated April 11, 1986, the complainants requested:

 

all the information pertinent to the Pawcatuck rapes of August 10 and 24, 1985, which were committed by Gary Smith, including officers' reports and statements, supervisors' reports and statements, original arrest reports, affidavits used to compile evidence, and any other related information in this case.

 

4. The complainants stated at hearing that they were not interested in records containing the name and address of the victim, the educational background of the accused, the family history of the accused and the victim, or records dealing with medical records of either the accused or the victim.

 

Docket #FIC 86-105 Page Two

 

5. The complainants also stated that they do not seek letters about the rapes which were written to the police commission and the press releases and newspaper articles which the police chief has collected.

 

6. The respondent stated that it was not claiming any of the exemptions set forth at 1-19(b)(3), G.S.

 

7. The respondent did claim, however, that all of the requested records are exempt under 1-19(b)(4), G.S., as "records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims and litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled."

 

8. The respondent claims that litigation is probable because NOW has urged the victim to sue the police, and the individual who was identified mistakenly as the rapist and arrested for the first rape, has indicated that he plans to sue the respondent.

 

9. No lawsuit is presently pending against the respondent with respect to the events encompassed within the scope of the complainants' request.

 

10. The respondent argues that by focusing the public consciousness upon the events through articles in the newspaper, the complainants will be taking on a relationship to the matter which is analogous to strategy with respect to the possible lawsuits, and that the newspaper articles could affect the venue of the upcoming trials.

 

11. It is found that the respondent's claim based upon 1-19(b)(4), G.S., is without merit.

 

12. Section 1-19(b)(3), G.S. exempts from disclosure the name and address of the victim of a sexual assault.

 

13. It is found that if more than merely the name and address of the victim must be deleted from the requested material in order to protect the identity of the victim from disclosure, that such material is exempt under 1-19(b)(3)(E), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 86-105 Page Three

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

1. The respondent shall provide to the complainants the records requested by them. They may delete, however, the material which the complainants have stated they do not seek, and material which would identify the victim which is exempt under 1-19(b)(3)(E), G.S.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 28, 1986.

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission