Paper wins release of inactive police file
MINNESOTA — The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act requires the release of the inactive police investigative file on an alleged rape by a professional ice hockey player, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in June.
The district court in Minneapolis was wrong to have expunged the arrest record and sealed the investigative file, the court said.
The file pertained to the arrest of Peter Daniel Quinn, an ice hockey player for the Minnesota North Stars. He claimed its release would operate as “an undeserved scarlet letter on his reputation.”
After a November 1992 game in Bloomington against his old team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Quinn and three of his former teammates met three teen-aged women at the bar Hooters. Back at the hotel where the Penguins were staying, Quinn allegedly twice raped one of the women. The county attorney declined to prosecute.
Quinn and his friends obtained a temporary restraining order in district court barring the city of Bloomington from releasing any of the information in the police files to the public. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the victim intervened, seeking access under the Government Data Practices Act.
In December 1992, the district court ordered Quinn’s arrest record expunged and the investigative file sealed.
The high court said that although courts do have inherent authority to order expungement of investigative and arrest records, that authority is limited when aggrieved parties — the victim and the newspapers in this case — object to expungement. Further, the Government Data Practices Act’s “threat” exception, whereby witnesses and victims can ask to keep identifying investigative data secret, applies only in cases where the person might suffer serious harm or retaliation, the court said. It does not apply to the players’ fear that the release of “unflattering facts” in the files would harm their property interest in their reputations or cause them emotional distress.
(In Re Access to Law Enforcement Records Relating to the Arrest of Peter Daniel Quinn on November 10, 1992; Media Counsel: John Borger, Minneapolis)