Journalist Brandon Smith Asks Court to Hold Current & Former CPD Officers in Contempt
Courts have repeatedly ruled that use of private email accounts for City business are subject to FOIA disclosures
CHICAGO – Independent journalist Brandon Smith today filed motions to hold several top current and former Chicago Police Officials in contempt of court for failure to follow a judge’s explicit order to produce private emails and text messages regarding the murder of Laquan McDonald by former officer Jason Van Dyke.
On August 2, 2018, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Raymond Mitchell ruled that any emails and text messages on so-called “private” accounts of Garry McCarthy, John Escalante, Jason Van Dyke, the three officers charged with conspiracy to cover up the Laquan McDonald murder, and several other CPD officials involved in the case, must be turned over to the Chicago Police Department for potential production to Smith in compliance with his FOIA suit.
While some of these officials conducted a search and informed the City that they had no such emails, others, in violation of the Court’s order, refused to search for or produce any so-called “private” texts or emails or ignored the City’s requests, including former superintendent Garry McCarthy, former acting superintendent John Escalante, Jason Van Dyke, Thomas Gaffney, Dora Fontaine, Janet Mondragon, Joseph Walsh, Thomas Gaffney, David March, and others.
“Courts in Cook County and around the country have repeatedly held that public officials cannot evade open records laws through so-called ‘private’ accounts used to discuss public business that pertains to their official duties,” said attorney Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, who represents Smith in the case.
“Even if these officers and former officers disagreed with the court’s ruling, they cannot simply disregard a court order.” Topic and Craig Futterman, Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, together fought with independent journalist Brandon Smith to win the release of the video of the killing of Laquan McDonald
Topic was also the lead attorney in the case that established that the Mayor’s emails on his private accounts are subject to FOIA when they relate to public business.
“Regardless of the outcome of the criminal cases against some of these officers, it is critically important that the public have total transparency into everything related to the Laquan McDonald case,” said independent journalist Brandon Smith, the plaintiff in the case. “We cannot allow current or former public officials to use private accounts to evade public disclosure or violate court orders.”
“No one is above the law,” said Futterman.
In addition, Smith today filed a motion to vacate any protective orders in the criminal case against the officers accused of covering up the McDonald murder. According to the motion, the case “having been tried to verdict, all orders entered by the Court restricting the dissemination of records or information should be vacated.”