Monday, November 25, 2013 7:48 pm
Conn. judge to listen to Newtown 911 recordings
By SUSAN HAIGHAssociated Press
New Britain Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott said he will issue his decision soon after listening to the tapes.
The state's Freedom of Information Commission ruled in September that the recordings should be provided to The Associated Press, but a prosecutor asked for a stay while he appeals that order.
The AP has sought the recordings in part to examine the police response to the massacre, which left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
Prescott ruled Monday that the recordings should continue to remain sealed while he reviews them. He said the seal is necessary to preserve the confidentiality of recordings until he rules on the request for a stay, sought by State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky III.
"The plaintiff's interest in preserving the confidentiality of the audio recordings until such time as his motion for stay can be fairly adjudicated outweighs the public's interest in immediate access to such information," Prescott said in his ruling.
Neither the FOI commission nor the AP voiced any objections.
During Monday's hearing, Victor Perpetua, an attorney representing the Freedom of Information Commission, said the recordings had been leaked by at least one member of law enforcement to the media, referring to a report last week from Hearst Connecticut Newspapers. Perpetua asked Prescott whether he believed that development to be relevant in his ultimate decision on whether to release the audio tapes.
Prescott said he did not know if the information in the Hearst report came from law enforcement sources or not and that he had no plans to hold a hearing on who may have leaked the tapes or whether the information was accurate.
"I think I have what I need at this time," he said, referring to making his final decision on the tapes.
Sedensky on Monday afternoon released a long-awaited summary report on the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting. In a summary of events, there are excerpts of conversations contained in some 911 calls to both the Newtown Police Department and the Connecticut State Police centralized dispatch center. The first call to the Newtown Police came in at 9:35 a.m. from a woman reporting she had seen the shooter. In another excerpt of a 911 call, the report mentions that gunshots can be heard in the background.
At a hearing earlier this month, Sedensky urged the judge to consider the anguish that releasing the tapes could cause for victims' families. He has said the judge should consider effects on others, including people who might hesitate to dial 911 out of fear their voice would end up on a newscast.
But Perpetua and the AP together argued against Sedensky's requested stay, say it's important to release the recordings because the public has a right to know how police acted in a moment of crisis.
Recordings of 911 calls are routinely released, but the Newtown police department and Sedensky sought to keep the Sandy Hook calls secret, arguing they could jeopardize the investigation. After the AP took its challenge to the FOI commission, Sedensky argued that releasing them could violate survivors who deserve special protection as victims of child abuse and subject them to unwanted attention from people, including reporters.