In a June 30, 2016 written decision, Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson held that the Attorney General’s office and other law enforcement agencies must release the names of officers from the State Police and Mercer Sheriff’s Department who fired fifteen shots at Radazz Hearns, then 14, on August 7, 2015. In her 79-page ruling, Jacobson found that the State’s “generalized concerns” for the safety of law enforcement officers, does not trump the public’s rights under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). She did allow, however, that had the State “shown that threats to unnamed police officers had been made . . . the court may very well have” ordered that the officers’ names be withheld.
In the same decision, Judge Jacobson also ruled in two cases filed by Richard Rivera. One sought the names of Troopers involved in a fatal police shooting of Daniel Wolfe and the other sought the names of Troopers who used pepper spray, tear gas and loud noise emitters to disperse a crowd during radio station Hot 97’s June 7, 2015 Summer Jam concert at Metlife Stadium. River also sought Use of Force Reports that were generated as a result of those incidents. Jacobson ruled that Rivera was entitled to the officers’ identities but “reluctantly” ruled that the Use of Force Reports were exempt as criminal investigatory records.
Both Paff and River were considered “prevailing parties” and entitled to recover their court costs and attorney fees from the public agency defendants. Judge Jacobson gave the State until July 20, 2016 to release the Troopers’ names so that it had time to consider whether or not to file an appeal.
I was ably represented in the case by CJ Griffin of Hackensack.