Prosecutor dropping fight to withhold Newtown 911 calls
HARTFORD, Conn. — A Connecticut state prosecutor said Monday he is dropping his bid to continue withholding recordings of 911 calls from the mass shooting last year at a Newtown elementary school. The tapes are expected to be released to the public Wednesday.
Last week, a judge ordered the prosecutor, State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky III, to provide the recordings to The Associated Press, affirming a ruling by the state’s Freedom of Information Commission that the calls are not exempt from public information laws.
Sedensky, who led the investigation into the massacre, said Monday he decided not to appeal the ruling after consulting with the office of the chief state’s attorney and an attorney for the town of Newtown.
The tapes include seven calls that were made to Newtown police, and do not include calls that went to state police dispatchers. The tapes will be made available at the Danbury offices of attorneys for the town of Newtown, according to a statement from the first selectman’s office.
The AP has sought the recordings in part to examine the police response to the massacre. The AP will review the content and determine what, if any, of it would meet the news cooperative’s standards for publication.
The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of Dec. 14 and gunned down 20 children and six women with a semi-automatic rifle. He also killed his mother in their Newtown home before driving to the school and committed suicide as police arrived at the scene.
Tapes of 911 calls are routinely released, but the Newtown police department and Sedensky sought to keep the Sandy Hook calls secret, arguing initially that they could jeopardize the investigation. Sedensky also has argued that releasing the tapes could violate survivors who deserve special protection as victims of child abuse and make people reluctant to call 911 for fear of having their cries for help later broadcast by news outlets.
Sedensky’s argument were rejected first by Connecticut’s FOI commission, which ruled in favor of the AP in September, and then New Britain Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott, who last week denied a request by Sedensky for a stay of the FOI commission’s ruling as he pursued an appeal. Prescott said the release of the tapes will help the public gauge the appropriateness of law enforcement’s response.
“Delaying the release of the audio recordings, particularly where the legal justification to keep them confidential is lacking, only serves to fuel speculation about and undermine confidence in our law enforcement officials,” the judge wrote.
A report on the investigation that was released by Sedensky last week concluded that Lanza’s motives for the massacre may never be known.