ARCHIVE 7/23/08: Fayette County Sheriff’s Lawyer on Benoit Wikipedia Hacker Video: ‘I’m Not Being Stubborn. (Maybe I Am.)’

ARCHIVE 7/16/08: Benoit Wikipedia Hacker Police Video Snippet (Part 3 – Why We Should Care)
May 20, 2009
ARCHIVE 7/26/08: Benoit Wikipedia Hacker Video: Appeal Planned to Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission
May 20, 2009

Fayette County Sheriff’s Lawyer on Benoit Wikipedia Hacker Video: ‘I’m Not Being Stubborn. (Maybe I Am.)’

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008 11:37 AM

From: Irvin Muchnick

To: Rick Lindsey

Re: FW: Matthew Greenberg Video

Rick,

Thanks for [Detective Ethon Harper’s] update.

Let me try asking this question a different way. In a previous and somewhat analogous situation, you explained to me that while you conscientiously execute the open records law, you are “at the mercy of the client.” That is an apt description of your role, and before I go any further here, I want to reemphasize that I appreciate your open-records services and I am not challenging your professionalism or integrity. However, I do believe this current situation may be different. (May be. I’m not a lawyer.)

The open records administrator indeed is at the mercy of a client using sharp tactics. Perhaps that was the case with the Scott James “statement.” I might have been of the opinion that where the sheriff’s report reads, “In a statement, Scott James …” that had to mean that a dedicated and undisclosed document was lying around. But at the end of the day I can’t prove that “In a statement” wasn’t just an inelegant way of expressing, “Scott James stated that …”

But is that really what’s going on with the records from Stamford that were represented in the FCSO report as being on file in support of the investigation and conclusions therein?

One record — “a copy of the interview” — is now universally acknowledged to be a faithless copy, even though a good one is known to exist. The other record — “report on the consent search of Greenberg’s computer” — evidently never was received at all.

Under the circumstances, I would suggest that FCSO is obliged to go out and get the complete video and get the report on the computer search, not just say sorry, we don’t have them, after all. The alternative, in my view, makes a mockery of open records law, as the public that funded and relied on the findings of the Benoit report finds crucial backup not even lost due to accidental humor error, which is one thing, but caught in a seemingly willful limbo between Stamford and Fayetteville, which is quite another.

I’m curious as to your own views on this. Also, if anything similar has come up in your experience in the role of handling the sheriff’s open records responsibilities.

Thanks,
Irv

***

Friday, July 18, 2008 6:39 AM

From: Rick Lindsey

To: Irvin Muchnick

cc:  Ethon Harper

Re: FW: Matthew Greenberg Video

Irv – I appreciate your comments but disagree that the FCSO has any increased responsibilities under the open records law simply because some over-generalizations or imprecise word choices were made in the language of the report on irrelevant matters.  The portions of this case which you have focused upon are interesting but, in my opinion, have nothing to do with the crimes which were investigated.  Whatever WWE did or did not do has/had nothing to do with the clear fact that Chris Benoit murdered his wife and child then committed suicide.  The actions/inactions of WWE and whether it has any culpability for Chris’ actions are for the civil side of the law.  Taxpayer dollars should not be spent chasing down documents that have no relation to the role of the Sheriff’s Office in handling criminal matters and solving crimes.

In the many emails which you have sent to me over the past several months, I have not read anything which makes me question the integrity and thoroughness of the investigation and the quality of the work done by the detectives.  Their role was to determine who committed the crimes and to ensure that no third party was involved in the murders; their role was not to determine if WWE may have acted or not acted in a manner to control the publicity of the heinous crimes committed by one of its stars.  That angle of the story may be great for reading and reporting but it has nothing to do with the crimes committed and, therefore, is not one on which public dollars can be spent.

If you disagree with me, and you very well might, I invite you to file an action in the local courts.  If a judge agrees with you, I will instruct my client to incur the expense of obtaining these records for you.  Until that time, I will not do so. You can send me as many emails as you wish, splash my name on the internet, question my truthfulness, question the quality of the investigation and argue with me until you can write no more, but I will not change my position on this.  I am not being stubborn (maybe I am), but one of my obligations as the Sheriff’s legal counsel is to ensure that taxpayer money is not spent on matters which are not related to the proper role of the Sheriff’s Office.

By copying Ethon on this email, I am asking him to forward this to his superiors and to Sheriff Johnson, if Ethon’s boss desires, so that you will know the position stated in this email is and has been the position taken by the FCSO on all such matters.  One of my many responsibilities as legal counsel to the Sheriff is to ensure proper and consistent responses to all open records requests.  I am not here to persuade the FCSO to spend money by chasing down records which they do not have and which had no bearing on the criminal investigation.

When and if we receive the report/video from Connecticut, I will send that to you.

If you print this response on your internet blog or anywhere else, please print the entire email and do not edit.

Rick

***

Friday, July 17, 2008 8:11 AM

From: Irvin Muchnick

To: Rick Lindsey

cc: Ethon Harper

Re: FW: Matthew Greenberg Video

Rick,

Thanks for your email. I probably will publish it on my blog, and if so I assure you that it will be published in its entirety. (If I use your statements in my book, which does not have a universe of infinite editorial space, I more likely will be quoting parts of it, but I promise to do so faithfully and in context.)

You have clarified whether FCSO is proactively seeking to make its files whole by acquiring the Greenberg video from Stamford PD. The answer is no. I will not be bothering you with that particular one again.

I realize that we disagree about my review of the criminal investigation. I have drawn no conclusions, except for the one on which we do agree: that Chris Benoit did it. Though taxpayer dollars should not be wasted on irrelevant investigative tangents, it is reasonable to wonder in this case whether FCSO expended taxpayer dollars to close off obviously relevant ones. I suspect that the preponderance of legal experts would agree with me that in the circumstances here, a 30-hour gap between the murderer’s final communications with the outside world and the discovery of the bodies should be investigated thoroughly. There are, after all, laws on the book requiring the reporting of crimes and prohibiting misprision. This is not to assert that anyone committed misprision. It is merely to make the point — which I think is awfully hard to dispute — that FCSO chose not to go there and chose to create a record aggressively reflecting that bias.

Best,
Irv

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