The Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Bureau has ruled in favor of the Daily Herald regarding the release of documents and dashcam videos related to allegations a Naperville police officer tried to use his squad car to run down a protester.
When Lisle resident Donald Pritchard was charged in February with falsely accusing a Naperville police officer of trying to run him over, the Daily Herald sought access to the squad car's dashboard camera and all documents related to his case.
Naperville city attorneys, with guidance from both the DuPage County state's attorney's office and public defender's office, denied the Freedom of Information Act request. They also defended that position to the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Bureau by arguing that releasing the information would stand in the way of Pritchard receiving a fair trial.
"If the Daily Herald obtains the in-squad video, they have the ability to post it on their website, for the public to view by simply clicking on it," they wrote. "Public dissemination of the key piece of evidence in this case would certainly taint the jury pool, thereby denying the defendant's right to a fair trial."
The department's response also stated that if the records were disclosed,"the jury or any members of the venire are one mouseclick away from information which the court may or may not suppress or otherwise limit the use of in the trial of the case."
In the 10-page ruling released Tuesday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Matt Hartman said he has reviewed all records associated with Pritchard's pending court proceedings.
"Further, based on our review of the records at issue, we are unable to conclude that disclosure of any specific information in the withheld records would create a 'substantial likelihood' of tainting the jury pool or otherwise interfering with the defendant's right to a fair trial," Hartman wrote. "Accordingly, we conclude that the (Naperville Police Department) has not sustained its burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the records are exempt from disclosure under ... FOIA."
Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said only that city legal officials "are conducting a very thorough review of the determination." She said there is no timetable by which the Daily Herald can expect to receive the information.
Pritchard, 49, of the 500 block of Maple Avenue, is free on $10,000 bail and is charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report claiming a Naperville police officer tried to run him over with his squad car at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 2, 2015. outside police headquarters at 1350 Aurora Ave. Authorities said Pritchard was protesting what he believes to be racism in the police department at the time.
Cmdr. Jason Arres said in February that the video footage showed the officer turning his vehicle around in the circle drive in front of the department.
Paul Darrah, spokesman for DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin, confirmed the footage led to charges being filed against Pritchard.
"Once the footage from the dash cam was reviewed, that completely disproved (Pritchard's) claims that the officer was trying to run him over," Darrah said when charges were filed.
Pritchard is next due in court at 8:30 a.m. Monday before Judge George Bakalis.