Thursday, August 16, 2001

Attorney asks that names be erased from file


Investigation of gambling and sex case could be made public

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — All the names contained in the investigative files of a Capitol gambling-and-sex case should be deleted before the files are made public, an attorney for one of the people named in the file argued Wednesday.

        Just being named in the file now carries a “stigma” even if there was no wrongdoing or participation in any of the events, said attorney Jay Ingle, who represents one of the growing list of unidentified people who want to keep the files closed or at least their names out of them.

        Franklin County Circuit Judge William Graham is struggling with the balance between disclosing the investigative files, which the Court of Appeals has ruled are public documents, and protecting the privacy of individuals named in the reports.

        “In many cases, this is hearsay to the nth degree,” Judge Graham said.

        The conduct portrayed in the files is “embarrassing,” Judge Graham added.

        The files include more than 500 pages of witness interviews, documents and at least one videotape compiled during an investigation into the activities of Kent Downey, who was director of operations for the state House of Representatives for many years.

        Mr. Downey pleaded guilty in 1997 to federal charges of promoting prostitution and illegal gambling.

        He ran a business from his Capitol office that organized golf outings under the name of Entertainment Outings Ltd. or EOL. He often hired exotic dancers to entertain.

        No legislators have been charged with wrongdoing in connection with the Downey case, but numerous people have come forward to keep their names out of the case.

        The attorney general's office and three newspapers have sought to make the case file public, but have been opposed by Mr. Downey and several individuals who have gone to court anonymously.

        Attorney Robert C. Moore, who represents some of the growing list of Jane Does and John Does in the case, said it would be “incredibly unfair” to release “very private information” about them.

        “There's no need to disrupt the lives of these individuals, really for no legitimate reason,” said Mr. Moore, who indicated that some Legislative Research Commission employees are among those who wish to remain anonymous.

        Assistant Attorney General Brent Irvin said investigators contacted dozens of people who are named in the files and invited them to review them and seek to have their names deleted.

        But not everyone identified in the files has been contacted, which Judge Graham indicated troubles him. “Shouldn't every person whose name is in that report be sent a letter?” Judge Graham wondered.

        The Open Records Law allows withholding of public documents that would amount to a “clearly unwarranted” invasion of privacy.

        Mr. Ingle said the object of the law is to ensure that public agencies are doing their job properly and naming people doesn't help that aim.

        Judge Graham gave no indication of when he would rule. Even after his decision on whether to let more people into the case, there will be lengthy arguments about what materials should be removed before final disclosure.

       



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