FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Mustafa Bilal,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2004-026

Chief, Police Department,

City of East Hartford,

 
  Respondents  December 15, 2004
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 14, 2004, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.   The complainant, who is incarcerated, appeared via teleconference, pursuant to the January 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Commission and the Department of Corrections.  See  Docket No. CV 03-0826293, Anthony Sinchak v. FOIC et al, Superior Court, J.D. of Hartford at Hartford,  Corrected Order dated January 27, 2004 (Sheldon, J.). 

 

            After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1.  The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  By letter of complaint filed January 15, 2004, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request for copies of records pertaining to his arrest for sexual assault.     

 

            3.  It is found that by letter sent by regular mail on December 17, 2003 the complainant requested copies of the incident report, arrest report, and any investigative report pertaining to his arrest.  It is also found that the complainant mailed the request to the respondent at the wrong postal zip code, and that the request was not received by the respondent, and the complainant did not retain a copy of his request.  The hearing officer has relied on the testimony of the complainant, together with the allegations of his complaint, to make the finding that the request was made.

 

4.  It is found that the respondent had no knowledge of complainant’s December 17, 2003 request, until being notified of the request by the Commission after the complainant appealed to the Commission.    

 

            5.  It is found that the respondent provided a copy of the requested incident or arrest report, together with supplemental investigative reports, on May 26, 2004, the day after getting notice of the complainant’s appeal to the Commission, when the respondent first became aware of the complainant’s request.  The respondent redacted the name of the victim from the records provided to the complainant.

 

6.  Following the hearing, pursuant to the order of the hearing officer, the respondent conducted an additional search for records responsive to the complainant’s request, submitted an affidavit attesting to that search, and submitted for in camera inspection the following documents: an unsigned letter relating to the sexual assault complaint against the complainant; the signed statement of the victim of, and only witness to, the assault; and a re-arrest warrant and application. 

 

7.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides:

 

“Public records or files” means any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

            8.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:    

 

Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. 

 

9.  It is found that the incident and investigative records already provided to the complainant, and the additional records described in paragraph 7, above, are all public records within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.

 

            10. The respondent has no objection to disclosure of the re-arrest warrant and application.

 

 

 

11.  The respondent maintains that the signed witness statement is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(B), G.S., which provides that disclosure is not required of:

 

Records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of … (B) signed statements of witnesses ….

           

            12.  It is concluded that the signed witness statement is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(B), G.S.    

 

13.  The respondent maintains that the unsigned letter pertaining to the sexual assault complainant is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(A), G.S., which provides that disclosure is not required of:

 

Records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of (A) the identity of informants not otherwise known or the identity of witnesses not otherwise known whose safety would be endangered or who would be subject to threat or intimidation if their identity was made known ….

 

14.  The respondent also maintains that, even if the letter is disclosable, the name of the victim should be redacted pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(F), G.S.

 

15.  Section 1-210(b)(3)(F), G.S., provides that disclosure is not required of:

 

Records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of … (F) the name and address of the victim of a sexual assault under section 53a-70, 53a-70a, 53a-71, 53a-72a, 53a-72b or 53a-73a, or injury or risk of injury, or impairing of morals under section 53-21, or of an attempt thereof….

 

 

16.  It is concluded that the name of the victim is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(F), G.S.

 

17.  The respondent’s burden of proof under 1-210(b)(3)(A), G.S., regarding the disclosure of an informant’s identity, requires an evidentiary showing that the disclosure of the unsigned letter would result in the disclosure of the identity of the informant, that the identity of the informant is not otherwise known, and that the safety of the informant would be endangered.  Seee.g., Department of Public Safety v. FOIC, 51 Conn. App. 100, 104-105 (1998).

 

18.  The respondent offered no evidence in support of its claim of exemption under 1-210(b)(3)(A), G.S.   The letter itself does not disclose the name of the informant, although it provides certain information about the informant, and is largely a complaint about the respondent’s investigation.  However, the Commission has no way of knowing whether the identity would be discoverable by the complainant if the letter were disclosed to him.  Moreover, the Commission has no way of evaluating any potential danger to the informant, although the informant expresses a fear of such danger.  Further, while the informant’s letter does not appear to have had any evidentiary value to the criminal prosecution of the complainant, once again, the Commission cannot predict the effect of the disclosure of the letter to the complainant.

 

            19.  It is concluded that the respondent failed to prove that the unsigned letter is exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(A), G.S.

 

20.  However, it is found that the unsigned letter is not itself an investigative report, was not investigated by the East Hartford Police Department, and did not lead to any investigative reports. 

 

21.   Consequently, it is found that the unsigned letter is not an incident report, arrest report, or investigative report within the scope of the complainant’s December 17, 2003 request.

 

22.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-210(a), G.S., when it did not provide a copy of the unsigned letter to the complainant.    

 

            23.  Finally, although there was a five-month delay between the complainant’s apparently mis-addressed request, and the respondent’s provision of records, the Commission finds credible the respondent’s testimony that it had no knowledge of the complainant’s request until notified by the Commission.

 

24.  It is therefore concluded that the respondent did not violate the promptness requirement contained in 1-210(a), G.S.

           

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

 

            1.  The complaint is dismissed.

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of December 15, 2004.

 

________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission


PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

 

Mustafa Bilal, #126798

Robinson Correctional Institution

285 Shaker Rd., PO Box 1400

Enfield, CT 06082

 

Chief, Police Department,

City of East Hartford

c/o Janis M. Small, Esq.

Corporation Counsel

740 Main Street

East Hartford, CT 06108

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2004-026FD/paj/12/20/2004