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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Did Police Give Cornhusker Athlete a Pass?

LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) - A Slate Magazine editor sued the Lincoln, Neb. police chief for records on an alleged rape in 2004 that the magazine believes may implicate a "person of some public prominence" in Nebraska athletics.

Slate and its senior editor Emily Bazelon sued Police Chief James Peschong in Lancaster County Court.

Bazelon claims the police chief illegally blew off her public records request.

"The records in question relate to an alleged rape reported to the LPD in June 2004," the complaint states. "This alleged rape was never prosecuted or even, to the victim's knowledge, adequately investigated. Nearly ten years later, and with the victim's support and consent, relators seek to obtain copies of records relating to this incident. Because the alleged perpetrator is a person of some public prominence in Nebraska athletics, the victim is concerned that he may have been subject to favorable treatment."

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is home to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Big Ten school fields 22 varsity teams in 15 sports, and is best known for being an NCAA football power.

The Lincoln Police Department (LPD) has refused to disclose anything beyond short incident records, not even the results of the victim's rape kit, Slate says in the lawsuit.

"LPD relies on the law enforcement exemption to the Public Records Act to deny any meaningful disclosure. But LPD's sweeping application of this exemption is contrary to law. If allowed to stand, it would dramatically restrict the ability of the public to meaningfully oversee local police departments and other law enforcement agencies. Without additional description and disclosure, the public is unable to determine whether law enforcement is properly discharging its duties. The records sought here, for instance, could reveal whether LPD seriously investigated a rape allegation that the alleged victim believes was never adequately pursued," Slate and Bazelon claim.

They ask the court to order Peschong to deliver the requested documents.

They are represented by Amy Miller with the ACLU Nebraska Foundation and David Schulz with Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic.

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