Monday, July 28th, 2008
JULY 28, 2008 – The author of a forthcoming book on the double murder/suicide of pro wrestler Chris Benoit today asked the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission to reverse the refusal by the Stamford Police Department to release a videotaped interrogation that was part of the Benoit investigation.
On June 25, 2007, the corpses of Benoit and his wife and their son were found in their home in Fayette County, Georgia. In February 2008, a report by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office closed the official investigation as a double homicide/suicide. Muchnick’s book about the case, Chris and Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be published next year by ECW Press.
Muchnick’s dispute with Stamford PD concerns an interview the police conducted, at the request of Georgia authorities, with the Stamford man identified as the computer hacker who edited Chris Benoit’s biography at the online site Wikipedia at 12:01 a.m. on June 25, 2007 – more than 14 hours before the bodies were discovered. The edit said Benoit had missed a wrestling show the previous night “due to personal issues, stemming from the death of his wife Nancy.” The Fayette County sheriff’s report would identify the computer hacker as Matthew Greenberg, a then-19-year-old University of Connecticut student.
On June 29, 2007, in the interview room of the Stamford PD Bureau of Criminal Investigations, a detective interrogated Greenberg in a session captured on videotape.
Stamford PD reported to the Fayette County sheriff that Greenberg was a wrestling fan, with no material connection to the Benoit case, whose unauthorized Wikipedia edit was simply an escalation of uncorroborated online rumors. The Fayette County sheriff’s report concluded that the Wikipedia angle of the investigation was a “coincidence” and that Greenberg was “harmless,” adding that a copy of the Greenberg interview by Stamford PD was “included in the case file.”
This month, however, Fayette County admitted to author Muchnick that it had in its possession only a short snippet of the police video, cutting off after three minutes. Stamford PD then explained that a faulty copy of the complete video had been sent to Fayette County. Georgia authorities have no explanation for why they published their conclusions about Greenberg’s role without first reviewing the entire interview, and they refuse to say whether they have requested a good copy of the video from Stamford. (The sheriff’s office agrees with Muchnick that the complete video would be a public record under Georgia law.).
On July 12, 2008, Muchnick asked Stamford PD for a copy of the complete interview under the 2007 Connecticut Freedom of Information Act. Stamford PD refused the request on the grounds that “voluntary statements to police” are exempted by the statute. State public information law experts told Muchnick that no such exemption exists, and advised him to appeal to the Freedom of Information Commission.
Muchnick said: “I look forward to a lawful resolution of this matter. I do not expect to uncover an alternative to the findings that Chris Benoit alone committed the crimes and that Matthew Greenberg was not seriously mixed up in any of the core events of the case. But the release of the Stamford police video is in the public interest for a number of reasons. For one thing, it will shed further light on overall timeline issues of the Benoit case.”
For more information on the State of Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission and the state Freedom of Information Act, visit http://www.state.ct.us/foi/. The text of Muchnick’s brief to the commission can be viewed at http://muchnick.net/ConnFreedom.pdf.
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