A King County court commissioner issued an emergency warrant on Wednesday temporarily preventing the city of Seattle from releasing records showing six Seattle police officers who attended the pro-Trump rally in Washington, DC last month, which led to a deadly siege of the US Capitol.
Supreme Court Commissioner Bradford Moore’s temporary injunction requested by the officers identified in the legal briefs as “Plaintiffs John and Jane Makes 1 through 6” halts the city’s proposed release of investigative and personnel information in response to four separate requests for public records by March 10th when a judge is to decide whether to give the officers permanent orders.
If the officers hadn’t received the order by 5:00 p.m. Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Carolyn Boies said the city was ready to release the recordings to four people on Friday, including a KOMO news reporter, who made the recordings under the Public Records Act of the state had requested separately.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday to seek the restraining order, all officials admitted participating in the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, held in protest at the results of the presidential election as an exercise “Their constitutional rights” was carried out to free speech. ”
But the lawsuit and the officers’ attorney Kelly Sheridan allege none of the officers later participated in the riots at the Capitol or in any kind of wrongdoing.
The siege, which resulted in the search of the Capitol, prompted lawmakers to flee for security reasons and resulted in the deaths of five people, including a federal police officer. This resulted in an ongoing FBI investigation with arrests and charges against several defendants, including numerous Proud Boys, Oath Guards, and others with links to extremist groups.
Two days after the Capitol riot, when pictures of two local officials at the rally surfaced on social media, the Seattle Police Department ordered any officer who attended the event to report their attendance to themselves. The city’s Department and Office of Police Accountability (OPA) have since announced that six officers known to have attended the event are being investigated to determine whether they have committed or directed criminal activity Have violated department guidelines. Chief Adrian Diaz has also said he would fire any officer who committed criminal behavior in the Capitol.
Each of the six officers Sheridan said he himself announced his participation in the rally on Wednesday are now on leave while the investigation continues.
During the Moore hearing on Wednesday, Sheridan argued that if records of their identity were released before the internal investigation was completed, the officers would be targeted, harassed and would irreparably damage their privacy, security, reputation and constitutional rights.
“If the records are released ahead of time before allegations are substantiated, they will be linked to the rioters and branded as criminals or extremists,” he said.
Sheridan also claimed that since the records were part of an “ongoing investigation,” they should not be disclosed under exceptions to the Records Act that prohibit the publication of records in connection with an open investigation. Until and until allegations of misconduct are proven, “there is no legitimate public interest in knowing which employees attended a political rally,” Sheridan said.
“This is not a valid application of the Public Records Act,” he added.
But Boies said some of the information sought, which identifies the officers, is not covered by the blanket open investigation exemption.
“We have to be wrong on the transparency side,” said Boies. “As far as we are concerned, we have not seen that there is any kind of controlling jurisprudence that causes the police to do anything other than fulfill the mandate of the Public Records Act.”
Noting that the officers had at least reached the threshold for a temporary injunction, Moore agreed with the points made by Sheridan that the release of the records raises potential privacy and constitutional concerns.
“The truth is that without the fact that this riot took place and the OPA tried to conduct this investigation, there would have been no record for the parties to request,” said Moore. “I think revealing people’s political affiliations when an investigation is ongoing is a really worrying problem.”
The city voluntarily passed the third party notice to officials, which is not required under Washington’s Files Act, to give them the opportunity to prevent the files from being disclosed to the four applicants: Jerome Drescher, Anne Block, Sam Sueoka and KOMO reporter Cristi Country.
Only Sueoka announced his presence at Wednesday’s hearing held during the Zoom video conference. An attorney who represented him told Moore that Sueoka “has no objection to a temporary order until the March 10 hearing” because she and her client did not have time to investigate the matter.
Since officials filed their lawsuit this week, the city and Sheridan have received numerous similar requests or communications from existing ones in order to obtain a record of the officials. The Seattle Times, which had previously made at least two requests related to officers attending the rally, was one of those who made additional requests on Wednesday.
Government transparency activist Lori Shavlik, who attended the hearing, told Moore that she had made a similar request. She said the request was not politically motivated and was simply looking for “public records that I have a right to”.
“This is a public concern,” she said, adding that an injunction “would harm other people who have inquiries”.
But Moore limited his appointment to just the four inquiries in question and declined Boies’ suggestion to apply them more broadly to cover similar inquiries.