WSAV Heads to Court for Jail Video of Matthew Ajibade

Evidence of Revisions to Ajibade Death Log (Image 1)

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap and Sheriff Al St. Lawrence contend they are not required to release the video of Matthew Ajibade’s death in the Chatham County Jail because it is part of a criminal investigation.
The Georgia Open Records Act O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a) says:
    “Public disclosure shall not be required for records that are: …records of law     enforcement…     in any pending investigation…”
But law makes an exception for agencies under investigation:
    “…this paragraph shall not apply to records in the possession of an agency that is     the subject of the pending investigation…”
Both the GBI and Sheriff’s own Internal Affairs Unit investigated the Sheriff’s Office and the jail in Ajibade’s death.
Therefore, WSAV and its attorneys have argued that video of events leading up to Ajibade’s death must be produced under Georgia Law.
However important, this is only a part of WSAV’s efforts over six months to obtain documents and video related to four inmate deaths.
In November, we asked for communications between the jail and its health care provider, Corizon Correctional Health Care.
The law requires a response in three days. They took 56.
The county would deny the entire request but not before forwarding a message from Chatham County Sheriff’s Major Russell Smith, who claims, “…the email system is not backed up individually.”
The Georgia Records Act requires a clear retention policy of public documents.
Then, when WSAV requested this video, which shows the transport of inmate Donald Johnson, who also died in custody, we were initially denied. Again, the Chatham County Attorney’s office said this video was part of an investigation, even though that investigation had concluded nine days earlier.
We also showed you the gut wrenching jailhouse video of Matthew Loflin, pleading to be taken to the hospital before his death of congestive heart failure last April.
When Chatham County produced that video, we expected two other jail visits even closer in time to Loflin’s death.
Those two video files were corrupted. The county has provided no explanation.
The young man’s family has sued Chatham County over their own requests for records the say the county has not provided.
But when it was time for Sheriff St. Lawrence to be deposed in that case, he was a no-show. When we confronted the Sheriff’s attorney, Chatham County Attorney Jonathan Hart, he closed the door in our face.
And yet, just Thursday, the lawyers for Loflin’s family finally received more than 500 e-mails they requested. Those emails were provided to WSAV Friday, months after we were told they could not be retrieved.

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