Bruce Albert contends that something improper transpired between him and police while he was in the city police lockup last summer, and his lawyer believes it was captured on video.
Attorney Kevin Luibrand asked for the video of the city man’s brief incarceration in early August under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. But the request was summarily denied by the City Attorney’s Office, which stated that the records he was seeking would “interfere with law enforcement investigations, judicial proceedings and/or potentially deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication,” according to a letter sent to Luibrand on Nov. 4.
Now Luibrand is asking a state Supreme Court judge to overturn the city’s denial and compel the disclosure of the video by next week. The Article 78 proceeding filed this week this week in Saratoga County contends that the records requested on Albert’s behalf should be public information because they don’t pertain to any criminal charges him.
“There’s isn’t any criminal action pending nor investigation that’s been disclosed to him,” Luibrand said.
Court documents filed in the proceedings allege that officers had “improper physical contact” with Albert while he was in his holding cell and an outside walkway.
City police did not return a call for comment for this story.
Albert initially summoned police to his Zephyr Lane residence at some point during the late evening of Aug. 4. Luibrand characterized the call as an “argument with his neighbor” that ultimately resulted in Albert being placed under arrest for disorderly conduct and brought to a holding cell at the Saratoga Springs Police Department.
The outcome of this case isn’t clear. Saratoga Springs City Court has no pending charges against Albert.
Also unclear is what happened to Albert while he was in jail — Luibrand declined to discuss what Albert alleges.
He has also sent a FOIL request to Saratoga County, asking for a copy of the 911 call made by his client and also a subsequent call made by the city police sometime during the predawn hours after his arrest.
“As of right now, it’s only a Freedom of Information case,” Luibrand said.
Robert Freeman, the executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, said case law has shown that video footage shot inside a jail is exempt from the Freedom of Information Law if it shows an area of the facility that poses a safety hazard or an invasion of privacy — such as a shower — if disclosed. He said the city’s logic for not releasing the footage doesn’t seem reasonable considering that it doesn’t appear to be part of an investigation and would likely need to be released to Albert if it pertained to his criminal case.
“It doesn’t seem that the rationale offered by the city can be justified,” he said. “It wouldn’t endanger life or safety, and whose privacy would it violate? And it doesn’t appear there is a criminal investigation associated with this situation.”
City Attorney Matt Dorsey said the lawsuit filed on Albert’s behalf seems to have inconsistencies. For instance, a pair of the exhibits included in it refer to a FOIL request filed with Saratoga County, which wouldn’t have been answered by the city.
Dorsey said he does intend to review the other request and discuss the matter with Luibrand this week. He said city officials want to ensure they’re complying with the letter of the law.
“Should additional disclosures be merited, we’ll cooperate expeditiously,” he said.