Media companies sue Metro PD for access to VU rape case records

State's largest newspapers, AP and TV stations sue under state Public Records law

A coalition of media organizations have filed suit in Davidson County Chancery Court seeking access to certain records related to the Vanderbilt football team rape case.

The state's four largest newspapers — The Tennessean, the Knoxville News-Sentinel,  the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal — along with the Associated Press, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and four TV stations asked a Davidson County chancellor to compel the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department to release materials obtained by Metro PD from third parties, including text messages and videos, though specifically not the video of the alleged rape.

Numerous requests for these records have been made by the media outlets, with the court filing specifically pointing to one made by Tennessean courts reporter Brian Haas in October. Haas' request was denied by Metro PD public affairs manager Don Aaron, citing several attorney-general opinions and appellate court decisions.

In response to that denial, Waller Lansden attorney Robb Harvey clarified The Tennessean's request, saying that the newspaper — and later the other outlets — was not seeking records made by the district attorney or law enforcement, which have been broadly defined as exempt from the public records act, but "dormitory surveillance video ... and text messages received from third parties such as the defendants, their friends, or the alleged victim."

In this case, the reporters were trying to clarify references made in text messages read into evidence at the sentencing of former Vandy wide receiver Chris Boyd which seem to indicate that quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels was involved in moving the alleged victim.

In short, Metro's position is that any material in an open investigation file is exempt from disclosure; the plaintiffs assert that only materials "made by" law enforcement are subject to the exception.

Chancellor Russell Perkins has scheduled a show-cause hearing Feb. 21.