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Trooper misconduct reports unsealed by court

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Trooper misconduct reports unsealed by court

  • Media may soon access the records, but witness and victim information will remain confidential.

June 20, 2003 — A federal judge in Philadelphia unsealed 47 documents Tuesday containing reports of alleged sexual misconduct by Pennsylvania state troopers.

The order requires counsel for defendants from the Pennsylvania State Police and the plaintiff, who filed a civil rights claim against former trooper Michael Evans, to file the documents with the court within 10 days of the ruling.

Under Judge Cynthia M. Rufe’s ruling, personal information about witnesses, confidential informants, and possible victims must be redacted from the files.

The decision follows a June 11 motion by Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. seeking access to the documents. The company publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. On June 6, the court ordered the records sealed for 30 days.

Documents requested by the media originally accompanied a complaint issued by the plaintiff against former state trooper, Michael Evans. The complaint alleged that Evans, while on duty in 1998, made improper sexual advances toward a minor.

The records were used by the plaintiff to establish a pattern of widespread tolerance of sexual misconduct by the Pennsylvania State Police. They included unrelated complaints against various Pennsylvania troopers made between 1995 and 2001.

Redacting personal information allowed public access to the documents without causing undue embarrassment or invasions of privacy, Rufe wrote. She also stated that investigative reports are not considered public under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act.

The newspapers are pleased that Rufe released the information. They want to evaluate whether the redacted information also should be released, said Michael Baughman, attorney for PNI.

Because people trust police officers with their safety, it is important the public know about accusations of police misconduct, Baughman added.

The attorney general’s office will discuss the decision with the state police before deciding whether to appeal, an office spokesman told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

(Haber v. Evans; Media counsel: Michael Baughman, Dechert LLP, Philadelphia) EH

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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