City of Carbondale cites exceptions in response to claims of withholding info

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The city of Carbondale released its position on Freedom of Information Act exceptions after questions have been raised about the city withholding reports and documents related to ongoing police investigations.

Cries for more information grew after it was revealed the police chief's stolen gun was used in a homicide.

Heartland News has made several FOIA requests regarding circumstances surrounding the chief's stolen gun. However, the city missed it's FOIA deadline. Heartland News filed with the attorney general's office and is waiting on a response.

The Freedom of Information Act is meant to allow citizens access to information on the activities and policies of government entities.

The city cites the Act provides a number of exceptions specifically for law enforcement activities.

One of these exceptions is for information related to ongoing criminal investigations. The city cites exception exists for a number of reasons:

  1. Premature release of information can place witnesses in danger.
  2. Premature release can tip criminals to the leads being followed and allow criminals to destroy evidence.
  3. Premature release can cause innocent suspects to seem guilty as a result of being questioned by law enforcement officials.
  4. Early publicity can prejudice juries and threaten the conviction of guilty suspects.

The theft of Police Chief O'Guinn's gun has been linked directly with a homicide investigation. There are two criminal cases currently pending in Jackson County Circuit Court relating to the homicide and the stolen gun.

The investigation into those two cases is ongoing. Two people have been charged by the State's Attorney's Office in these matters.

The city cites the defendants' right to a fair trial, Illinois Supreme Court limits to what a prosecutor may say regarding a pending criminal case, and saying the court has essentially extended those limitations to police departments as reasons for the FOIA exception that the city has been claiming in denying the release of this information.

More than 270 pages of related documents have been reviewed and released by the City, primarily in response to media requests, according to a press release from the city of Carbondale.

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