Public Gains Access to Police Video Shown in Court: And D.C. Attorney General Admits to Reporter His Earlier Denials Were Mistaken

UPDATE 5-19-17:  Reporter Paul Wagner received the videos and showed samples this evening on Fox 5, referencing advocacy by D.C. Open Government Coalition that sprang the tapes from detention by the D.C. Attorney General.

Paul Wagner, an 18-year veteran reporter at D.C.’s WTTG, Fox5 TV news, doesn’t recall “a politician ever telling me I was right.”  But it happened last Friday (May 5), first in a 5 a.m. email then in an afternoon on-camera interview (shown on the evening news).

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine last September repeatedly claimed privacy laws and court decisions prohibited him from releasing video from the new body cameras worn by Metropolitan Police Department officers—even the excerpts Wagner requested that had been shown in open court as exhibits in criminal trials prosecuted by Racine's staff. (The U.S. Attorney routinely releases such video exhibits used in its prosecutions.) Wagner's requests for help to the mayor, D.C. Council and court officials all went nowhere, and MPD released only heavily edited video.

But Friday, the District’s top law enforcement official admitted “unease with being on the wrong side” and that after further consideration, decided to make video exhibits available since he was “now confident that [Wagner] had the better of the argument.”

Legal experts thought so all along.

Racine’s office acted after the D.C. Open Government Coalition explained in a detaiIed March 2 letter that the law is clear, and affirms the public right of access to criminal court proceedings--and related evidence.

Postscript: Wagner has renewed his request for video shown in five drunk-driving cases that went to trial in D.C. Superior Court. By his deadline Friday evening he was still waiting.

An earlier post on this story is here (with an attached copy of the Coalition letter).