YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio county prosecutor said Thursday releasing security camera footage of a judge being shot and wounded would reveal a courthouse’s critical security infrastructure and law enforcement response protocols if provided to The Associated Press.
Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin made those arguments before a three-judge panel during a state appeals court hearing at the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Youngstown after the Ohio Court of Claims ruled in February the video is a public record and should be released to the AP.
Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was shot outside a Steubenville courthouse in August 2017 by 51-year-old Nathaniel Richmond, who was then killed by a probation officer. Richmond had a pending wrongful death lawsuit in front of Bruzzese at the time. Bruzzese recovered and has returned to the bench.
The AP requested a copy of the surveillance video recorded by a camera positioned in front of the courthouse. Hanlin denied the request, saying the video shows sensitive courthouse infrastructure and is a security record, which exempts it from public disclosure under Ohio law.
To give the AP the video would endanger judges and court personnel because it shows how they are protected, Hanlin said.
“The resulting video at the Jefferson County Courthouse is actually a primer for the next attacker on how to do it better and more effectively,” Hanlin told the judges.
The AP’s attorney, Jack Greiner, countered that Ohio case law is clear that the video is a public record as the Court of Claims ruled in February when it said Hanlin had failed to prove it was not.
Court of Claims Judge Patrick McGrath in his ruling said the video is not a security record because it does not contain information used to protect a public office from “attack, interference or sabotage.”
Greiner argued Thursday that the video does not show any critical information about the courthouse security infrastructure nor is there any proof the video has been used to train law enforcement on the protocol for responding to such an attack in the two years after the shooting. Hanlin failed to provide evidence requested by a special master for the Court of Claims about how the video is integral to courthouse security and that protocol, Greiner said.
“They reverse engineered an incident to describe the protocol in this case,” Greiner said.
Hanlin told the judges she met with The AP reporter who made the request and showed him a video recorded from a street camera owned by the city of Steubenville and along with screen shots from the courthouse camera. The Steubenville video, however, did not show the entirety of the shooting, which included Bruzzese returning fire, and the subsequent law enforcement response.
No decision is expected for several weeks.
Richmond was the father of former high school football player Ma’Lik Richmond who was convicted of rape in 2013. Ma’Lik, then 17, served about 10 months in a juvenile lockup after being convicted with another Steubenville High School football player of raping a 16-year-old girl during an alcohol-fueled party in 2012.
The case brought international attention to the eastern Ohio city of 18,000 residents and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the football team.