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Fla. police erase Michael Vick video after newspaper requests it

By The Associated Press
01.25.07

ATLANTA — A security video showing Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick surrendering a water bottle to a security screener at Miami International Airport was erased after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested it under Florida’s public-records law.

The Jan. 17 video was part of the investigation into the water bottle with a hidden compartment that an initial police report said contained a “small amount of dark particulate” and an odor consistent with marijuana.

Authorities this week said lab tests showed no evidence of drugs, and the bottle is no longer considered evidence in an investigation. Vick was cleared by police of any wrongdoing.

In a report on its Web site, the Atlanta newspaper said it requested a copy of the video on Jan. 18 from the Miami-Dade Police Department, under the state’s public-records law. Police spokesman Robert Williams said at the time that police had decided they would not release it because it was part of an open investigation.

On Jan. 23, after authorities said the case was closed, the newspaper said it again requested a copy of the video and was told that it had been erased.

Williams told the Associated Press yesterday that he had consulted with department attorneys about releasing a flash drive that contained video from a Transportation Security Agency camera at the airport. Those attorneys consulted with the TSA, which refused to release the contents of the flash drive because of security concerns and ordered that it be returned to the TSA, Williams said.

The matter became moot anyway, Williams said, because he then discovered that the investigating officer had erased the flash drive after being informed by the State Attorney’s Office that there would be no criminal charges against Vick.

Williams said the newspaper would have to take up the matter of releasing the videotape with the TSA.

According to the newspaper, Williams wrote in an e-mail: “That information was shown to the State Attorney’s Office and it was determined by them that no criminal act was committed, and no charges were filed. Therefore this video was deleted from the flash drive since it was not being used in a criminal case.”

Adria Harper, the director of the First Amendment Foundation of Florida, a nonprofit organization that provides legal aid and training on open records, said there shouldn’t be barriers to accessing the video.

“Even if they were allowed to destroy the records so quickly — which I would be surprised about — I wonder if they would do that if it was someone else, someone other than Michael Vick.”

Florida has very broad access laws, she said.

Harper said the only exception to releasing information is an open criminal investigation, which does not apply in the Vick case.


Related

Federal judge allows release of jailhouse-beating videotape

Mississippi's Sun Herald wins lawsuit, posts surveillance-camera footage — with warnings about its graphic nature — on its Web site. 08.30.07

Fla. court: Video of fatal restaurant shooting can't be copied
Judge says allowing public to view, but not reproduce or distribute, security footage balances right to know with family's right to privacy. 07.28.08

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