Friday, March 23, 2012

State police claim a bare bones press release is enough

The Connecticut State Police have gone to great lengths at taxpayers’ expense to try to control the future release of information about their cases.
The state Appellate Court is considering a Freedom of Information case which stems from a near fatal attack on Route 8 in Derby.
The court heard arguments in the case in November, but hasn’t issued any ruling.
The New Haven Register had lodged a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission after state police refused to release a police report on the incident, in which Toai Nguyen nearly killed his father on Route 8 in 2008. The commission sided with the New Haven Register. Read that decision here. The Department of Public Safety appealed to the Superior Court, and Judge Henry Cohn, a former assistant attorney general, sided with the state police, who were represented by Stephen Sarnoski, a current assistant attorney general. The New Haven Register and Freedom of Information Commission have appealed Cohn’s ruling to the Appellate Court. Whatever the outcome, the case is likely headed to the state Supreme Court.
The New Haven Register eventually received the police report, but it took several months. In 2010, Nguyen, an undocumented immigrant, was arrested for allegedly stabbing his sister. Nguyen’s court case in the stabbing incident is still pending in Superior Court in Milford.
Read New Haven Register editorials about the battle for the documents here:

EDITORIAL: State police stonewall on vicious beating
Published: Monday, March 30, 2009
The state police really don’t like the public looking over their shoulders. They are willing to throw up a legal fog for months to prevent release of the most basic information about their work. Take, for example, the arrest of Toai Nguyen, 35, of 59 Grove St., Shelton, in March 2008. State police charged Nguyen with first-degree assault on an elderly person and criminal attempt to commit murder. Nguyen allegedly severely beat a passenger in his car while on Route 8.
Read the full editorial here.

EDITORIAL: Court sides with cops to stifle information
Published: Wednesday, June 02, 2010
There is something fundamentally wrong with the state’s position that it does not have to disclose relevant facts of timely public interest in a criminal arrest. In the case of a Shelton man arrested March 15, 2008, the Freedom of Information Commission agreed. The bare bones press release from the state police identified Toai Nguyen, the charges against him, the date, time and place of his arrest, as well as a brief description of the incident. But, it left out crucial details like the name of the victim, the hospital where he was taken, his injuries or the weapon used in the assault.
Read the full editorial here.


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