FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT Justin Silverman, New England First Amendment Coalition, 774.244.2365 | Linda Lotridge Levin, ACCESS/RI 401.351. 3278 | John Marion, Common Cause RI, 401.861.2322 | Steven Brown, ACLU of RI, 401.831.7171
Highlighting the “extraordinarily strong public interest” in the 38 Studios scandal and calling “less than compelling” the arguments offered for keeping the investigatory records secret, five open government groups today called on Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and State Police Superintendent Steven O’Donnell to release those documents to the public.
In a detailed letter sent to the two officials today, the five groups — ACCESS/RI, the ACLU of RI, Common Cause RI, the League of Women Voters of RI, and the New England First Amendment Coalition — stated:
“[T]he disaster known as 38 Studios happened because of a deeply ingrained culture of secrecy in this state. The official state investigation into that disaster should not perpetuate that culture.”
The letter noted that the records being withheld included both those considered by the grand jury and the numerous other records generated by the investigation that were not presented to the grand jury. Regarding the grand jury records, the letter pointed to two other newsworthy incidents — the Station Fire tragedy and, in 2000, the shooting of off-duty police officer Cornel Young, Jr. — where grand jury records were released. The groups rejected as unpersuasive the arguments that the two law enforcement agencies have given for not following the path taken in the Station Fire investigation in having the records opened.
The open government groups also argued there were compelling reasons for releasing the investigatory records that were gathered by the two agencies outside of the grand jury. Noting that “of the 146 witnesses your agencies interviewed, only 11 were called before the grand jury,” the groups pointed out that there was “thus a wide range of independent information gathered by your agencies that would shed light on this incredibly important incident in Rhode Island history if you publicly released the information — which, under the Access to Public Records Act (APRA), you have the clear right to do.”
The letter noted that the State Police have recently taken that route following two highly publicized incidents — the Cranston parking ticket scandal and the controversial school resource officer “body slam” incident at Tolman High School in Pawtucket.
“Surely the public deserves similar access to information about an investigation involving millions of taxpayer dollars,” the groups’ letter claimed.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here. Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include: The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe and Boston University.