Purdue responds to Exponent complaint; asks court to weigh in

August 20, 2014  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University on Wednesday (Aug. 20) responded to the lawsuit filed last week by Purdue Student Publishing Foundation Inc. (d/b/a The Purdue Exponent), which seeks to compel release of security video compiled by the Tippecanoe County prosecutor as part of the investigation of the Jan. 21 murder of Purdue student Andrew Boldt.

At a court hearing today, Purdue lodged with the court the video compilation from the Tippecanoe County prosecutor that shows the detention of an Exponent photographer by officers from several local law enforcement agencies who were securing the crime scene immediately after the homicide.

“Purdue proposes to post the video on the university’s website,” Purdue said in its court filing. “However, out of respect for the multiple law enforcement agencies involved in the response on January 21, 2014, and out of respect for this Court’s jurisdiction over the [pending] homicide charge ... Purdue wishes to afford this Court and those agencies an opportunity to speak to that step before Purdue posts the video.”

In Wednesday's hearing, the court took custody of the video and confirmed the propriety of Purdue’s proposal to post the video for public access following consultation with the Tippecanoe County prosecutor.

Twice since May, Purdue has shown the video to the Exponent and its photographer, Michael Takeda, as part of Purdue’s investigation of the police detention of Takeda. However, out of deference to the prosecutor’s homicide investigation, Purdue had declined to release the video publicly, citing an exception in Indiana’s public records statute for “investigatory records.” Purdue’s court filing today seeks confirmation that it has complied with the Access to Public Records Act in taking this position - one that has been upheld by the Indiana Public Access Counselor. 

“Over the past six months, we have respectfully explained to the Exponent our position on the investigatory records exception,” said Steve Schultz, Purdue’s legal counsel. “The Indiana Legislature has seen fit to shield law enforcement investigations from public disclosure, and the Public Access Counselor has advised that this shield is one of the broadest in our public records law.” 

Schultz continued, “In addressing Mr. Takeda’s grievance, we have shared the video evidence with him and the Exponent. As a result of that step, the Exponent recently corrected some of its reportage regarding the detention of Mr. Takeda. The video was key to the updated investigation conclusions that we communicated to Mr. Takeda and the Exponent on June 13. We therefore asked the court and the prosecutor today for their authorization to take the extraordinary measure of releasing this video into the public record in the hope of clearing this matter up once and for all.”

Purdue’s court filing, which can be viewed at http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q3/counterclaimdoc.pdf, also asks the court to recognize that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press does not entitle a journalist to disregard crime scene restrictions, and it seeks indemnification from the Exponent for the claims at issue based on a longstanding contract between the parties. Importantly, this contract expressly recognizes the Exponent’s status as an independent entity not affiliated with Purdue.

Source:    Steven R. Schultz

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