COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University has found themselves in trouble as a report by a special master in the Ohio Court of Claims stated that the university violated Ohio public records law by withholding names in a police report provided to The Lantern, the university’s official newspaper, following a public records request from the paper.
Jeffrey Clark, the special master from the Ohio Court of Claims, found that the university failed to provide the requested records in a timely fashion and wrongly denied the release of the uncharged suspects’ names.
One of the names in the police reports was that of Brian Snead, a now-former Ohio State football player who was dismissed from the university on Nov. 27.
Snead is a former five-star recruit from the 2018 Buckeye recruiting class. The true freshman running back appeared in the first two games of the 2018 football season before he disappeared from the field and the sidelines for the remainder of the season. We now know the reason for his sudden suspension was due to a police report on Sept. 13 that named Snead as a suspect in a sexual assault allegation that transpired two days earlier.
Despite the victim in the report not pursuing charges following the initial report to the police, the university conducted an internal investigation into the matter and found that the running back violated the OSU student code of conduct and eventually led to his dismissal from the university on Nov. 27.
The Lantern initially submitted a public records request for the police report on Sept. 26, but it took the university over four months to comply with the request before finally delivering a redacted version of the report on Feb. 4.
Edward Sutelan, the former Editor-In-Chief of The Lantern, then filed a complaint to the Ohio Court of Claims on Feb. 27, citing the redaction of a name of a suspect in a sexual assault report that occurred at a campus dormitory.
“Ohio State, in my experience, has often got into a habit of providing redacted police reports and this was a relatively important police report that redacted information that I think was worth the public knowing even if charges weren’t filed,” said Sutelan. “In my experience, that’s not a typical case with other police departments.
Ohio State finally provided an unredacted version of the police report on May 14 and asked that the case be dismissed, but Sutelan insisted that the case be continued, stating that the redaction reflected “standard practice” for the university. The university filed a second motion for the case to be dismissed on May 23, but the ordeal continued and Sutelan went on to win the case.
The special master of the case, Jeffrey Clark, stated that the university was likely to repeat the issues of redacting information in police reports in future public records requests.
“Failure to correct this policy and practice would create a perverse incentive for law enforcement agencies to litigate, wait, and belatedly disclose, if delay is the agency’s objective.”
All of this is also happening at the same time that the university finally released a redacted version of their investigation of former Ohio State football assistant coach Zach Smith and former head football coach Urban Meyer that transpired in August of 2018 surrounding domestic violence accusations against Smith from his ex-wife, Courtney Carano Smith.
Whether the fact that Snead was on the football team made an impact on the university’s decision to delay and redact the report has not yet been proven, Ohio State has certainly set a dangerous and unethical precedent when it comes to their public records requests.
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