More than a year after a guard in the Buffalo City Court lockup brutally attacked a handcuffed suspect, video of the encounter remains shielded from public view.
State Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Bannister sided Wednesday with Mayor Byron Brown’s administration in ruling that a videotape of the beating should be withheld from public scrutiny because of a pending civil lawsuit filed by the beaten man against the city.
The Buffalo News sued the city last year to force release of the tape. 7 Eyewitness News joined the lawsuit Wednesday, arguing disclosure of tapes showing misconduct in a city jail – funded by taxpayers -- is of significant interest to the public.
“It’s certainly a matter of public concern,” said Mickey Osterreicher, attorney for 7 Eyewitness News. “When there is that type of activity that occurs in a place where people may potentially find themselves for whatever reason -- and there’s surveillance video of it -- in order for the public to be better informed, they need to be able to see the best evidence possible.”
Joseph Finnerty, attorney for The News, added: “Every day of delay is a further infringement on the rights of the public and the media to view this video.”
Lawyers for the newspaper and TV station argued the tape should be released since the jail attendant, Matthew J. Jaskula, pleaded guilty in May and therefore will not face a criminal trial. Bannister had previously said release of the tape could prejudice a jury during that trial.
Maeve Huggins, the City of Buffalo’s assistant corporation counsel, argued the tape should be withheld because its release could prejudice a jury for a civil lawsuit filed against the city by Shaun Porter, the suspect who was beaten by Jaskula.
“The city does not comment on pending litigation except to say that it will abide by the court’s decision,” city spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said in a text message.
Bannister said the tape will be released either during or after the civil trial, which she says is likely to conclude within a year. Jaskula will be sentenced Oct. 12. He is likely to receive one to two years in prison.