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Press wins right to see records of cop accused of rape

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         ILLINOIS         Secret Courts         Aug 14, 2001    

Press wins right to see records of cop accused of rape

  • A federal judge in Chicago ordered the city to turn over the entire personnel file of a former police officer.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo on Aug. 7 ordered the city of Chicago to release boxes of records it claimed were “confidential” from a case involving a police officer accused of rape.

Former officer Ernest Marsalis was accused of raping a 19-year old woman after he allegedly stopped her for a curfew violation. The woman sued the city in 1997 for damages arising from the incident. The lawsuit was settled last year for $625,000.

The Chicago Reader sought to obtain records pertaining to Marsalis. The newpaper asked to examine Marsalis’ personnel file, disciplinary records, any citizen complaints filed against him and the depositions from the lawsuit. The city objected to releasing the documents because, it said, they were confidential.

The judge ordered the city to provide the court with copies of the requested records, which filled five banker’s boxes. After reviewing each document, the judge ordered their release. Castillo determined that the release of the records was necessary to the public interest and that any harm to the city was outweighed by the importance of disclosure so the public and press could debate police corruption.

Castillo emphasized that secrecy leads to public distrust, and honest police officers then “suffer from the ‘bad cop’ label.” The judge also cited a recent Newsweek article about sexual assaults by police and noted that such stories could not be written if the city’s records were deemed confidential. Castillo noted that “public debate would suffer.”

(Doe v. Marsalis; Media counsel: David William Andich, Andich & Andich, Rock Island, Ill., and Robert Stephen, Minetz, Levin, McParland, Phillips & Minetz, LLC, Chicago) AG


© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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