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Monday, January 07, 2008

Secretive DA Protecting the Hawkeyes?

An interesting little affair in Iowa City, where a prosecutor has placed what is in effect a gag order...on the entire University of Iowa campus!

Johnson County attorney Janet Lyness has taken steps to keep secret public records and court documents that would provide information about an investigation into a reported sexual assault on the University of Iowa campus.

Lyness told The Des Moines Register that she has instructed U of I officials not to respond to a public-records request for copies of subpoenas served on the university related to the sexual assault investigation that involves members of the Hawkeye football team.

Lyness also acknowledged to the Register that there is no case law to support what effectively amounts to a gag order imposed on administrators, faculty and staff at the 30,000-student university, but she said she is treating her investigation "like grand-jury proceedings."

Two open-records advocates question her actions, and one Iowa newspaper has sued the U of I over records that apparently fall under Lyness' gag order.

The public records in dispute:

• The Register filed a request Nov. 16 seeking copies of subpoenas served on the university related to the alleged sexual assault, which reportedly took place Oct. 14 but wasn't reported to any law enforcement agency until Nov. 7.

State law requires public officials to provide a response to a request for public records within 20 calendar days, meaning the university needed to provide records or outline a lawful exception by Dec. 6.

But the school has refused to respond in writing to the request, and U of I Director of University Relations Steve Parrott, who typically provides the public with such information, declined to provide an explanation for the failure to provide a response.

More here.

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