Legal tiff between Purdue, student newspaper resolved

INDIANA — A year-long dispute between Purdue University and its student newspaper, The Exponent, drew to a close Tuesday after both parties dropped a lawsuit over video footage of a confrontation between campus police and an Exponent photo editor during a January 2014 on-campus shooting.

Exponent leaders claimed in a January 2014 complaint against university police that after photo editor Michael Takeda identified himself near the crime scene as an Exponent photographer, campus police officers ordered him to “get on the ground.”

According to the complaint, Takeda began to comply, but officers knocked him to the ground and detained him afterward for several hours, using threatening and profane language and seizing his photography equipment, which became damaged. Takeda said he believed he was targeted because of his role as a student journalist.

The Exponent requested video footage of the police confrontation in February 2014, but university officials denied the request. The request was denied again in April 2014 after the newspaper appealed to state public access counselor Luke Britt, who deemed the footage part of a police investigation and therefore exempt from public access. Exponent staff contended that the incident between police and Takeda was a separate matter irrelevant to the shooting investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit in August 2014 on behalf of the newspaper in order to obtain the footage. The university posted the video on its website about a week later, but the conflict was not immediately resolved — newspaper staff maintained qualms about whether all the camera angles were represented in the footage and whether the release complied with the original public records request. Exponent staff argued that police had erroneously characterized the video as evidence of a crime, therefore violating the state’s public records law.

Steve Badger, an attorney representing the Exponent, said in an interview that both parties mutually agreed to wrap up the lawsuit with no monetary settlement. A stipulation for dismissal was filed on Sept. 4 and received by a judge Tuesday.

“The parties found common ground on their shared concerns and reached a forward-looking agreement on how to improve communications and procedures,” Badger said in a joint statement with defense counsel Bill Kealey.

“With our dispute now behind us, we anticipate an ongoing, positive relationship between the Exponent and the University. Our main objective was the release of the video showing law enforcement interaction with our photographer,” Pat Kuhnle, the Exponent’s publisher and general manager, said in a statement. He declined to comment further on the matter.

Contact SPLC staff writer Tara Jeffries by email or at 202-974-6317.