Judge Robert J. Elgee issued a ruling on Tuesday denying a Cable News Network request for a 15-year-old Blaine County police report involving the Bowe Bergdahl family.
Elgee’s ruling followed a hearing on July 21 in Blaine County 5th District Court wherein counsel for CNN argued that the report was subject to public disclosure and the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office argued that release of the document would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
CNN, represented by Boise attorney Deborah Kristensen, claimed the report was releasable under the Idaho Public Records Law because it resulted from a closed police investigation. Blaine County, represented by Tim Graves, chief deputy for the prosecuting attorney’s office, argued that the document was protected from disclosure by Idaho Code 9-335, a statute pertaining to documents exempt from public disclosure and specifically exempting documents that would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
The hearing followed a lawsuit seeking public release of the document that was filed by CNN on June 25 against Blaine County. Earlier in June, in response to a CNN public records request, Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey released three police reports involving the Bergdahls but declined to release a fourth report from an investigation conducted on Nov. 4, 1999.
“I was pretty confident that the court would see it our way, and I’m pleased that the court took the time to review and analyze it and agreed with my decision to withhold it.”
None of the four investigations resulted in criminal charges being filed against anyone.
In his ruling, Elgee further determined that the document in its entirety is not subject to disclosure because any part of it would reveal the nature of the investigation. CNN had requested through its court filing and arguments that the document be redacted if necessary to exclude non-releasable personal information.
Elgee reviewed the document before making his decision. The document, which was presented as Exhibit A at the hearing, is now included in the case court file but is sealed and not available for public review.
“I was pretty confident that the court would see it our way, and I’m pleased that the court took the time to review and analyze it and agreed with my decision to withhold it,” Ramsey said Tuesday. “This is not something I took lightly, but with the concurrence of legal counsel I decided it was the right thing to do.”
Kristensen referred questions regarding Elgee’s ruling to CNN Communications.
“We won’t be commenting further on the judge’s ruling at this time,” Bridget Leininger, of CNN Communications, wrote in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express. “I hope you understand, as I don’t want it to be interpreted as a stern ‘no comment.’”
Bergdahl, a U.S. Army sergeant from Hailey, has received national and international news media attention since his capture in Afghanistan in 2009. News media attention focusing on Bergdahl and his family has intensified since his release by Taliban forces on May 31.
Bergdahl is currently working at an Army base in Texas, where officials are investigating the incident of his capture.