CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County judge has ruled that West Virginia jail officials must make public a video depicting a correctional officer throwing flash-bang grenades inside an inmate’s cell.
Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit found that the video doesn’t fall within exemptions to the state’s Freedom of Information Act. She ordered last month that attorneys representing the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority turn the video over within five days to Charleston attorney Paul Stroebel, who represents an inmate who alleges that he received severe burns earlier this year while incarcerated at the Western Regional Jail, in Barboursville.
Attorneys for the Jail Authority appealed Tabit’s ruling to the West Virginia Supreme Court. A decision by the judge not allowing the Jail Authority to wait until after justices rule before handing over the video also has been appealed.
Ben Freeman, an assistant attorney general, argues that the video footage is private because of an exemption to the FOIA that relates to the design of jails and detention facilities. Information that, if released, could be used by an inmate to escape from a facility or injure another inmate or staff member is exempt from being released.
Tabit wrote that “nothing on the videotape would put any inmate, resident or facility personnel at peril nor could the same be used by any inmate to facilitate any type of an escape from the facility.”
Stroebel, in September, asked Tabit to require the jail authority to respond to his FOIA request and turn over photos and videos from an incident involving his client…