FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Jeff Yates and The Wilton Bulletin,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2005-084
Chief, Police Department, Town of Westport,  
  Respondent December 14, 2005
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 11, 2005, 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 and conclusions of law are reached:

 

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

 

2.  By letters dated January 28 and February 17, 2005, the complainants made a request “to inspect all documents regarding the arrest of Brian Joseph Minicieli, who was charged… [with] a shooting on Nov. 13 and a burglary on Oct 17 [2004]” (the “requested records”). The complainants asked to review redacted records in the event that the respondent claimed any exemption pursuant to 1-210(b)(3), G.S.   

 

3.  Following some oral communication between the individual complainant and Sergeant Shannon of the respondent’s staff, and the respondent providing some arrest records to the complainants, the complainants appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission (“Commission”), by letter dated February 17, 2005 and filed with the Commission on February 24, 2005.

 

4.  By letter dated March 1, 2005, counsel for the respondent declined to provide additional records, citing the test for exemption set forth at 1-210(b)(3)(c), G.S.    

 

 5. Section 1-210(a), G.S., states 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.

 

6.  Section 1-210(b)(3), G.S., in relevant part exempts from mandatory disclosure:

 

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, (C) information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action ….

 

7.  With reference to the disclosure of arrest records, 1-215, G.S., states:

 

(a) Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided in this section, any record of the arrest of any person, other than a juvenile, except a record erased pursuant to chapter 961a, shall be a public record from the time of such arrest and shall be disclosed in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212 and subsection (a) of section 1-210, except that disclosure of data or information other than that set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section shall be subject to the provisions of subdivision (3) of subsection (b) of section 1-210.  Any personal possessions or effects found on a person at the time of such person's arrest shall not be disclosed unless such possessions or effects are relevant to the crime for which such person was arrested.

 

(b) For the purposes of this section, “record of the arrest” means (1) the name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest and the offense for which the person was arrested, and (2) at least one of the following, designated by the law enforcement agency:  The arrest report, incident report, news release or other similar report of the arrest of a person.

 

8.  It is found that the requested records include statements of witnesses, narrative reports, records of voice communications, photographs, and laboratory reports.

 

9.  It is found that the respondent did provide the complainants with a press release concerning the arrest of Brian Mincieli and seven additional records, including arrest reports, arrest change reports, arrest name reports, and the redacted front pages of two incident reports.

 

10.  It is also found that two criminal cases are still pending in Norwalk Superior Court. Moreover, the respondent personally testified that: a) his entire file concerning the cases in question had been forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s Office; and b) the State’s Attorney’s Office had written him stating that its file contained “the same reports” as the respondent’s file and that disclosure of the respondent’s file “might very well prejudice the case and not allow for a fair trial”. See Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police v. Freedom of Information Commission, 51 Conn. App. 100 (1998).

 

11.  It is also found that the respondent personally testified that, in his own opinion, disclosure of the requested records would be prejudicial to the prospective law enforcement actions. In this regard, the respondent furnished specific examples. Given that Mr. Mincieli was charged with shooting another person in the abdomen with a deadly weapon, the prospective law enforcement actions would be prejudiced if persons were actually harmed, or were fearful for their safety, as a result of disclosure of the requested records. The respondent also stated that photographs could be incorrectly interpreted and that more testing may be needed to supplement the laboratory reports currently in the file. He stated that the case should be tried in court and not in the press. 

 

12.  Finally, it is found that the respondent’s press release concerning the arrest of Brian Mincieli did not include a street address, but that for purposes of 1-215, G.S., this omission was remedied by one of the incident reports that was disclosed.

 

13.  Based upon these findings, it is concluded that the respondent disclosed to the complainants all information required to constitute the record of arrest, as required by 1-215, G.S.

 

14.  It is also concluded that the signed statements of witnesses included within the requested records are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(B), G.S.   

 

15.  It is further concluded that disclosure of the requested records, defined at paragraph 2, above, and described at paragraph 8, above, would be prejudicial to prospective law enforcement actions. Accordingly, the requested records are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(C), G.S.   

 

16.  It is finally concluded that the respondent did not violate 1-210(a), G.S. when he declined to disclose the requested records.

 

 

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

 

1.      The complaint is hereby dismissed.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 14, 2005.

 

________________________________

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:

 

Jeff Yates and The Wilton Bulletin

16 Bailey Avenue

PO Box 1019

Ridgefield, CT 06877

 

Chief, Police Department,

Town of Westport

c/o Ira W. Bloom, Esq.

Wake, See, Dimes & Bryniczka

27 Imperial Avenue

PO Box 777

Westport, CT 06881-0777

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2005-084FD/paj/12/20/2005