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May 30, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Judge blocks release of video in SPD assault case

A King County judge today granted a request to block the release of patrol-car video considered to be key evidence in an assault case brought against a Seattle police officer.

Superior  Court Judge Julie Spector issued her ruling after listening this morning to arguments by the officer’s attorney and a King County prosecutor on whether an injunction, blocking the release, should be granted.

On May 13, King County Court Commissioner Pro Tem Eric Watness temporarily blocked the release of the dashboard-camera video, ruling it should not be disclosed to the news media until Spector could hear full arguments.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office had planned to release the video to The Seattle Times and KOMO-TV  in response to public-disclosure requests. Times news partner KING-TV later made a request.

Officer Chris Hairston’s attorneys filed court papers seeking to block the release at this stage of the case.

Hairston has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from a Sept. 24 incident in which his wife, Katie, who also is a Seattle police officer, responded with another officer to a report that a person had passed out near Seattle Central Community College. While dealing with several people who had been drinking alcohol, Katie Hairston was assaulted.

When Chris Hairston arrived, he is alleged to have assaulted the handcuffed suspect. A Seattle police report said Hairston could be seen on the video forcefully using his hands on the man.

Hairston was charged by the City Attorney’s Office, which has declined to release the video, citing legal restrictions.

The Times initially requested the video from the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which obtained an assault conviction against the man who attacked Katie Hairston.

Attorneys for Chris Hairston, in seeking an injunction, argued, among other things, that disclosure of the video would jeopardize Hairston’s right to a fair trial; violate Hairston’s right to privacy; and conflict with a state law regarding the release of dashboard-camera video while criminal or civil litigation is pending.

The county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office argued the video was subject to public disclosure and that Hairston wasn’t likely to prevail on the merits.

The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild has sharply criticized City Attorney Pete Holmes for charging Hairston, saying Hairston simply grabbed the suspect and that his conduct should be handled internally by the Police Department.

Prior to Hairston’s request, the guild’s president, Sgt. Rich O’Neill, questioned why Holmes had not released the video.


Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: assault, Pete Holmes, Seattle Police Department


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