Sex Crimes Evidence May Be Disclosed to Inmate

     (CN) – Privacy interests cannot keep a New York prisoner from reviewing the MySpace chats that landed a fellow inmate in prison, an appeals court ruled.
     Edward MacKenzie filed suit after Albany prosecutors refused to disclose certain documents about the criminal proceedings against his fellow inmate, Richard Clevenstine, under the Freedom of Information Law.
     Clevenstine had been convicted in 2008 of 11 counts including rape, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child for acts he committed while he was in his late 50s on a pair of teenage girls. He was sentenced to more than 240 years in prison, but one of the rape count was reversed on appeal in 2009.
     MacKenzie specifically sought a computer disc containing Clevenstine’s chat log on the social networking website MySpace. This log included Clevenstine’s electronic communications with his victims and other materials.
     A judge nevertheless credited the arguments of the District Attorney’s Office that such disclosure would violate the victims’ privacy, and dismissed MacKenzie’s case.
     The Appellate Division’s Albany-based Third Department reversed last month, stating that the victims had already given up their privacy rights.
     “Here, the computer disc containing the electronic communications between the inmate and the victims was admitted into evidence at the inmate’s criminal trial and the victims themselves testified about sexual conversations they had with the inmate through the MySpace social networking site,” Justice Edward Spain wrote for the court.
     “Moreover, substantial additional testimony was adduced regarding the sexually explicit conversations between the inmate and the victims via the inmate’s MySpace account,” Spain added. “In view of this, any privacy interest the victims had in such information under this privacy exception has been extinguished.”
     Since there is also an exemption for public records that identify the victim of a sex offense, MacKenzie could still come away empty-handed, according to the ruling.
     On remand, the trial court must determine whether the documents indentify the crime victims and whether the documents should be disclosed to MacKenzie.

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