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Appeals court says Schimel must release training videos (UPDATE)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel must make public a pair of law enforcement training videos he made before being elected and that Democrats say show him making inappropriate comments, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.

There is no compelling reason to keep secret the videos, made in 2009 and 2013 when Schimel was Waukesha County district attorney, the unanimous three-judge panel on the 2nd District Court of Appeals said.

The court affirmed a ruling made last year by a Dane County circuit judge ordering that the videos be released. The videos have been withheld by the state Department of Justice, then-controlled by Schimel’s predecessor J.B. Van Hollen, pending the appeal.

Department spokeswoman Anne Schwartz had no immediate comment on whether the recordings would be made public. The department could choose to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, further delaying releasing of the videos.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party sued the state Department of Justice for release of the videos in 2014, just weeks before Schimel was elected attorney general. The party argued that the recordings must be released under the open records law. It alleged they showed Schimel making questionable remarks at the State Prosecutors Education and Training seminars.

The lawsuit offered no evidence supporting the allegation, which Schimel has denied.

The Department of Justice refused to release them on the grounds that they would reveal prosecutors’ strategies and compromise victim privacy.

Both Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess in his ruling last year, and the appeals court on Wednesday, rejected the DOJ arguments, saying the content of the tapes was routine and there was no danger that law enforcement tactics or victims’ privacy would be compromised in releasing them.

“The DOJ neither made the exceptional case required to shield public records from public view, nor overcame the presumption of complete access to public records,” the appeals court said.

Schimel in July hosted a summit on the open records law for state and local governments. He also spoke out earlier that month against attempts by fellow Republican state lawmakers who wanted to make more government records secret.

“If Attorney General Schimel wants the press and the public to believe anything he says about open government, he should do the right thing and release the tapes,” said Democratic Party spokeswoman Carrie Springer in a statement.

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