Opinion says alleged rape suspect's name should have been public record

KENTUCKY — Thestate attorney general has ruled that police in Lexington were wrong to withholdthe name of a former University of Kentucky basketball player who wasinvestigated but never charged for an alleged rape at a university residencehall.

The opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General AymeBensenhaver and released March 7, said Lexington police improperly redacted theplayer’s name in its responses to two open records requests filed in May2005 and November 2005 by reporters from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The alleged rape occurred in April2005 at the Wildcat Lounge, a University of Kentucky residence hall that housed16 university basketball players, according to aHerald-Leaderarticle.

According to an article in theHerald Leader, police have neverpublicly named a suspect in the case, which was shelved in August 2005 when acounty judge decided not to proceed with the criminal complaint.

Inredacting the player’s name from the records, police cited a Kentuckystatute that protected the privacy of a suspect who had not been arrested orcharged with a crime.

But the attorney general’s ruling saidthe suspect in the case was a public figure who, ”by virtue of thisstatus, forfeits, to some extent, his privacy interest.”

Theopinion also noted that the situation mirrored an October 2005 decision in whichthe attorney general ruled Lexington police were wrong to withhold the name ofLexington Vice Mayor Mike Scanlon from a police report in which Scanlon wasaccused of assaulting a car salesman.

”Questions related tothe thoroughness of the investigation and the impartiality of the prosecutioncan best be resolved through unimpeded access to the underlying records,” the opinion said.

Tom Eblen, managing editor of theHerald-Leader, said thenewspaper’s primary concern with its open records requests was ”fulldisclosure.”

”We had a big interest in making sure thecase was fully investigated,” he said. ”University of Kentuckybasketball is a big deal, and the natural tendency would be for things like thisto go away.”

Eblen said that following the alleged rape, therewere early indications that the police investigation was not entirely thorough,and that the newsroom felt strongly about the case.

”In the endit was fully investigated,” he said. ”And it might not have been hadwe not been watchdogs.”

Bruce Edwards, spokesman for LexingtonMayor Teresa Isaac, said the city’s law department was still reviewing theattorney general’s opinion. No decision has been made as to whether thecity will appeal theopinion.