Ohio State violated Ohio public records law when it improperly redacted information in a police report requested by a Lantern editor and took too long to provide it, the Ohio Court of Claims has ruled.
Former Lantern Editor-in-Chief Edward Sutelan sued Ohio State Feb. 27 for improperly redacting the name of a suspect in a University Police report that described an alleged rape involving an Ohio State student. The court ruled in Sutelan’s favor Monday.
According to the ruling, Ohio State failed to provide requested records in a reasonable amount of time and was wrong in contending that the records did not include an initial police report.
Ohio State spokesperson Ben Johnson said in an email that Ohio State is reviewing the decision.
In an earlier interview with The Lantern before the ruling was known, University President Michael V. Drake said Ohio State seeks to protect the privacy of students while complying with public records law.
“We will always obey the laws and we believe in obeying the law, but I believe very much in both transparency and the importance of your personal privacy,” Drake said.
Sutelan’s original request, for police reports involving Ohio State athletes, was filed Sept. 26. The records, including a police report with a redacted name of a suspect in a sexual assault reported at a campus dorm, were provided more than 18 weeks later on Feb. 4.
The suspect was later revealed to be former Ohio State football player Brian Snead.
Ohio State provided an unredacted copy of the police report May 14, and then asked that the case be dismissed. Sutelan asked that it continue because he said the redaction reflected “standard practice” for the university.
Ohio Court of Claims Judge Patrick M. McGrath agreed with the recommendations of the special master of the case, Jeffrey Clark. In his Aug. 9 report, Clark concluded that Ohio State failed to produce the requested records in a timely manner and was wrong in denying the release of the names of uncharged suspects in police reports.
Clark also found that the issues of the case, redacting information in police reports, were likely to repeat in future requests for police reports. However, the final decision by Judge Patrick M. McGrath deemed that these issues were not likely to repeat for Sutelan himself.
“Although the special master discussed a concern that OSU likely may engage in future unlawful conduct … no evidence is presented showing reasonable expectation that Sutelan again will be the requester,” McGrath wrote in the report.
Sutelan is entitled to the $25 filing fee as well as any other costs he incurred.