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Sexual assault survivors Elisabeth Andries, left, and Samantha Brennan share their stories as students and community members gather in protest over the schoolÕs handling of sexual assault, Friday, November 20, 2020, on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La.

Over objections from LSU's attorneys, former LSU student Samantha Brennan testified in court Monday that former star football player Derrius Guice’s name is lurking beneath the redactions in 2016 reports that she filed with university police.

Nineteenth Judicial District Judge Janice Clark heard testimony from Brennan on Monday during a court hearing over LSU’s refusal to provide full and unredacted police reports involving the Guice incident to both Brennan and USA Today. But Clark issued no ruling, requesting instead that each side submit briefs in seven days before she announces a decision.

LSU and USA Today clashed over several issues, including how best to balance the privacy of someone whose name appears in a police report with the public’s right to know about campus-related incidents. They also disagreed over whether an NFL player like Guice has as much right to privacy as an anonymous citizen, and whether the statute of limitations for pursuing a criminal case should govern when the police release an investigative file.

Last week, after months of requests from USA Today and Brennan, LSU finally released redacted police reports from a 2016 incident in which Brennan accused Guice of taking a partially nude photo of her and sharing it with others without her permission. But Scott Sternberg, the attorney representing USA Today and Brennan, argued that they are also entitled to LSU paying their attorney’s fees and court costs, because his clients had already filed a lawsuit for the records before LSU released them.

Brennan testified over Zoom that she spent several days in August trying to receive her police reports from the LSU Police Department, but only received a brief initial report after she requested it and overnighted a $5 check to LSUPD. After she repeatedly asked how she could get her full file, LSUPD punted her request to LSU’s legal team, she said.

That didn’t lead to her getting the records. She said she spoke by phone with Johanna Posada, LSU’s assistant general counsel, and said that Posada told her “there’s no way for me to get my file until the statute of limitations was up.” The statute of limitations for video voyeurism, a potential charge Guice faced, runs for six years.

“They just gave me such a runaround and such a hassle,” Brennan said.

But Sternberg pointed out that it’s purely an LSUPD policy decision not to release police files until the statute of limitations is up. The state law governing when to release them says they can be made public as long as no criminal action is “reasonably anticipated,” and other police departments often release them. LSU Police also had not done anything to investigate Brennan’s case after she told them in 2016 that she wasn’t interested in moving forward with it.

Brennan said she asked Posada on the phone whether expressing an interest in pursuing criminal charges would make a difference in her ability to receive her police file.

Posada, however, interpreted that to mean that Brennan still was considering a criminal case against Guice, Posada testified Monday. Posada said that meant LSU shouldn’t release the reports at the time. But after Brennan told USA Today that she wasn’t planning to pursue a criminal case, LSU was willing to release the redacted version.

“Any time there’s a public record at issue, we determine privacy rights first and foremost,” Posada testified, though Sternberg challenged her on whether LSU performs a “balancing test” over the public’s right to know versus privacy interests involved. Posada later said that LSU's lawyers do perform the balancing test for each request.

“In an allegation of a crime, there is no expectation of privacy,” said Sternberg, who often represents The Advocate | Times-Picayune as well. Sternberg referred to Guice by name during the hearing, despite objections from Bob Barton and Katia Bowman, two of the attorneys representing LSU.

Bowman objected that is was inflammatory for Brennan and Sternberg to refer to Guice by name during the court hearing, but Clark allowed it.

Winston DeCuir, Jr., the general counsel for LSU, said LSU is more likely to redact names in police reports when the person named in them does not know they’ve been accused. He said that if someone is arrested, LSU would lean toward making their name public at that point.

“We struggle to maintain some level of privacy for the students involved,” DeCuir said.

 


Email Andrea Gallo at agallo@theadvocate.com