Prosecutor: Releasing video would endanger judges

GATHERING EVIDENCE — In this Aug. 21, 2017, file photo, evidence markers are placed on North Court Street and the sidewalk next to the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, after Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was ambushed and shot earlier that day. -- Associated Press

YOUNGSTOWN — Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said Thursday releasing security camera footage of a judge being shot and wounded would reveal a courthouse’s critical security infrastructure and law enforcement response protocols if provided to The Associated Press.

She made those arguments before a three-judge panel during a state appeals court hearing at the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Youngstown after the Ohio Court of Claims ruled in February the video is a public record and should be released to the AP.

Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was shot outside of the Jefferson County Courthouse on Aug. 21, 2017, by 51-year-old Nathaniel Richmond, who was then killed when Bruzzese and a probation officer returned fire. Richmond had a pending wrongful death lawsuit in front of Bruzzese at the time. Bruzzese recovered and returned to the bench two months later.

The AP requested a copy of the surveillance video recorded by a camera positioned in front of the courthouse. Hanlin denied the request, saying the video shows sensitive courthouse infrastructure and is a security record, which exempts it from public disclosure under Ohio law.

To give the AP the video would endanger judges and court personnel because it shows how they are protected, Hanlin said.

“The resulting video at the Jefferson County Courthouse is actually a primer for the next attacker on how to do it better and more effectively,” Hanlin told the judges.

The AP’s attorney, Jack Greiner, countered that Ohio case law is clear that the video is a public record as the Court of Claims ruled in February when it said Hanlin had failed to prove it was not.

Greiner argued Thursday that the video does not show any critical information about the courthouse security infrastructure nor is there any proof the video has been used to train law enforcement on the protocol for responding to such an attack in the two years after the shooting.