The alleged victim in a high-profile Vanderbilt University rape case said in an affidavit filed Tuesday that releasing some records in the case could cause her further harm.
Saying she was personally aware of some of the records being sought by a coalition of media organizations led by The Tennessean, the alleged victim said in her affidavit that she believes releasing them "would subject me to harassment, abuse and intimidation."
The Tennessean does not identify victims of sexual assaults. Editor Maria De Varenne has said the newspaper has no interest in "photos or videos taken of the young woman involved in this horrendous crime."
The media coalition sued Metro government this month over its refusal to release third-party records from a rape investigation that led to charges against four former Vanderbilt football players. The lawsuit says records created by nongovernmental entities and obtained by the Metro Police Department since the June 23 incident do not fall under exemptions to the Tennessee Public Records Act.
Third-party records are routinely filed and released to the news media.
Metro, the state attorney general and the alleged victim filed briefs Tuesday in Davidson County Chancery Court. The state is representing the Davidson County district attorney general.
The media coalition's response is due March 6, and a hearing is scheduled for March 10.
In their brief, Metro attorneys argued that even if the court created a legal distinction "between materials created by the police and materials gathered from third parties," evidence gathered via subpoenas or search warrants still would not be public records.
Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson said in an affidavit filed by the city that he "strongly opposes" releasing information from open case files.
"I believe that harmful and irreversible consequences could result ...," Anderson said. "These consequences include prejudicing the jury pool, harming the defendants' right to a fair trial, harming the validity of any conviction and causing intimidation, harassment and abuse to the victim."
But Frank Gibson, public policy director of the Tennessee Press Association and founding director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said concerns about what jurors might know could easily be addressed by moving the trial to another county. Gibson also said law enforcement agencies have often "abused the rules of criminal procedure" to withhold information that should be public.
"This case is just an attempt to define where the boundaries are," he said.
The state said in its filing that records sought by the media are shielded by the protective order the district attorney's office and the defendants' attorneys agreed to Oct. 2. The third-party records "constitute the very evidence that may or may not be introduced during the ... criminal trial," it says.
Robb Harvey, an attorney for the media coalition, said the news organizations "look forward to presenting our side to the chancellor."
"The filings made by the Metropolitan Government, District Attorney's office and alleged victim include arguments and opinions about public policy that have not been made in prior Public Records Act cases," he said.