Carpentersville defies ruling to release post-traffic stop death details
Carpentersville officials are refusing to abide by a ruling from Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office compelling them to release details about the arrest of a man who died at a hospital hours after an encounter with police.
Madigan's office determined a week ago that reports and video of the Aug. 17 arrest of 31-year-old Joshua Paul would not "obstruct an ongoing investigation" and should be released.
But village officials remain steadfast in their refusal to turn over the information, citing an ongoing investigation by the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit into the circumstances surrounding Paul's death.
"We'll release it when we make sure we have this the way we want it," said Carpentersville Village President Ed Ritter. "This is not a story."
Paul's family's attorney, Brian Perkins, believes his clients are owed an explanation about what happened between the time Paul was pulled over for an unknown traffic violation at 5:26 p.m. Aug. 17 and his death the next day at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.
"We respect the law enforcement process, but we would expect any law enforcement agency to comply with an order from the attorney general's office, the highest law enforcement office in the state," Perkins said. "It's all still very mysterious what happened."
In an Aug. 25 open records request, the Daily Herald asked for the arrest reports and any video footage captured by the two arresting officers. The village denied the request three days later, citing a number of privacy and bureaucratic exemptions.
The newspaper filed a request for review with the attorney general's public access counselor's office later that day. Madigan's office ruled Oct. 15 that the village failed to meet "its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the requested records are exempt" from the state's open records laws.
Assistant Attorney General Dushyanth Reddivari wrote that the newspaper's interest "in disclosure of the records to disseminate information to (the) public is aligned with the public's interest in obtaining information regarding the manner in which law enforcement officials perform their public duties; specifically, in monitoring the use of force by police officers. There is a strong public interest in information that sheds light on the manner in which law enforcement officials perform their public duties."
Reddivari also disputed that releasing the information would jeopardize the investigation.
"Although the village claims that it was instructed by ISP to withhold the records requested, it has not provided any explanation or information from which this office could conclude that disclosure of the records ... would obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation by the village," Reddivari wrote
There is no mechanism for the state to sanction public agencies that fail to abide by the public records rulings from Madigan's office. The only recourse to attempt to obtain public records when they are refused is to file a lawsuit, which would not yield a quick remedy, legal experts said.
Meanwhile, village spokesman Dave Bayless said the village intends to release the records once the state police investigation has concluded.
But state police officials could not say when the investigation was expected to conclude. Spokeswoman Monique Bond said the state police would prefer the village wait to release the public records until after the investigation is concluded, but "it's Carpentersville's decision." Bond also said state police investigators were waiting for a coroner's report.
But Kane County Coroner Rob Russell said his office is waiting for the state police investigation to conclude before a death certificate could be issued.
"We are waiting for the state police to finish their investigation," he said. "There's still a lot of information that's pertinent for us to determine a manner of death. As soon as we can provide a cause and manner of death, we will do that."
Meanwhile, Paul's family and friends are left wondering why the village won't comply with the ruling from Madigan's office.
"Typically if you've got something to hide, that's when you refuse to cooperate," said Stephanie Jaramillo, a friend of Paul and his fiance, Jeff Bolek. "If they had nothing to hide, they'd be able to provide that information."
Jaramillo organized an online fundraiser to help cover Paul's funeral expenses. It raised $2,035.