Judge OKs release of Fairfield officer’s body camera video

UPDATE @ 2:40 p.m.:

A motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the release of a Fairfield police officer’s body camera video has been denied.

Konrad Kircher filed the motion this afternoon and the motion was denied by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard.

“The Retherford bill will fix this problem in the future,” Kircher told the Journal-News. “I just hope that news organizations are responsible with what they do with the video.”

State Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, has introduced a bill that would prevent photos, videos and images of a victim of a sexually oriented crime from being accessed via a public records request.

The bill, called the Victim’s Protection and Privacy Act, passed the House in March and was referred to the Ohio Senate’s Judiciary Committee in April. It has yet to receive a hearing.

MORE: A proposed bill would restrict public access to visual sex crime evidence. Not everyone agrees with it.

Retherford has said this type of police evidence was protected through a court case — including the appeals process — until a December 2016 Ohio Supreme Court ruling.

Dennis Hetzel, president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, previously told the Journal-News that the legislation is “obviously is well-intentioned,” but said “it’s unnecessary and adds yet another exception to the ever-growing list of exemptions to our open records law.”

“Ohio already recognizes a constitutional right to privacy, and there are no examples to our knowledge of such images being released,” he said. “We also are concerned that the language lacks specificity and could lead to the withholding of additional public records.”

FIRST REPORT:

The family of a woman stabbed to death by a man that Fairfield police shot in the act is seeking to stop the release of the officer’s body camera video.

On July 3, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser announced that a Butler County grand jury declined to indict the Fairfield police officer who fired the fatal shots.

During that announcement, Gmoser said, “Total clarity was established by the body camera worn by the officer under review and confirms the decision of the grand jury that no criminal charge is warranted or suggested concerning the conduct of the office.”

MORE: No charges for police officer in fatal Fairfield shooting

Fairfield police were called to the 1500 block of Gelhot Drive at 5:59 a.m. June 22 for a domestic dispute. Officer Bryan Carnes, a three-year veteran of the force, broke open the door to the residence and bathroom, where a man was stabbing a woman, according to the investigation.

In an attempt to stop the stabbing, Carnes fired two shots, striking Logan A. Williamson, 37, who died at the scene.

The stabbing victim, 37-year-old Michelle R. Henry, later died at Mercy Hospital-Fairfield.

Fairfield officials said the video would be released today after family members were able to review it.

MORE: “He saved my daughter’s life.” Mother thanks deputy for quick actions

Attorney Konrad Kircher, representing Henry’s mother Carmen Wollyoung, said he will file a motion this afternoon seeking a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction prohibiting the release of body camera video “of the shooting of Logan Williamson and stabbing of Michelle Henry.”

In the motion, Kircher said the Ohio Public Records Act exempts certain records from disclosure.

“… release of the video would violate the Ohio Constitution’s guarantee of Michelle’s and Michelle’s family’s dignity, respect and privacy,” Kircher said in the motion.

MORE: Police receiving tips, have leads in fatal Middletown shooting

Kircher said Henry leaves behind a family, including three children, and the release of the video will “cause significant trauma to Michelle’s survivors. …. Release of the video could result in the availability of the gruesome death of their loved one on the internet for the whole world to see. The result of the production will cause severe humiliation, depression, anxiety, anger and other emotions, especially for the teenage children.”

The motion does commend Carnes’ efforts to save Henry and Fairfield police for equipping officers with body cameras and their willingness to be transparent.

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