ALBANY, N.Y. — A New York trial judge has criticized the state police for playing a game of "cat and mouse" over a request for public records and ruled it had no legitimate reason to delete certain information from the documents in a police brutality case.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara rejected an argument the information was blacked out to protect the privacy of witnesses — a position commonly taken by the state police — and accused the agency of "contrived procedural maneuvering designed to avoid (court) review of its decision."
He ordered the information turned over to Derek DeMeo, a 25-year-old Saratoga County man who claims he suffered severe facial injuries at the hands of a trooper assigned to the governor's Executive Services Detail outside an Albany bar in December.
The state police had argued the release would invade the privacy of witnesses to events outside the bar.
"No factual basis is offered to show that the individuals who spoke to the police had some reasonable expectation that their identities would be shielded from public release, or that some identifiable harm would result from release of that information," McNamara wrote in an Aug. 10 decision first reported by the Times Union of Albany.
The state police are "more interested in a game of cat and mouse than in providing appropriate responses to legitimate requests for information," the judge said after reviewing efforts by DeMeo's lawyer to get records in the case.
State police initially said they had no record of the incident, then said DeMeo's lawyer was too vague in his description of the records and later released some information, but withheld radio transmissions and parts of an incident report.
The names and other information about the seven people interviewed at the scene were blacked out before the reports were turned over.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, told the Times Union that the response was typical of an agency that has developed a reputation for fighting information requests.
"In short, from my perspective, the state police too often denies access to records without sufficient reason to do so," Freeman said.
The state police did not respond to requests for comment from the Times Union and a message left by the Associated Press was not returned in time for this story.
State police have said DeMeo was injured in a fight between bar patrons and denied he was assaulted by a trooper.