Jacob Sullum

Sedensky also argued that releasing the 911 recordings would jeopardize "prospective law enforcement action," although Lanza is dead and there is no prospect that anyone would be prosecuted in connection with the massacre. Prescott rejected Sedensky's interpretation of "prospective law enforcement action," noting that he "has cited no legal authority for his broad characterization of the phrase."

Even if a prosecution were possible, the judge observed, Sedensky never explained why letting the public hear the 911 calls would compromise it. That would have been hard, because "he had not even listened to the recordings himself."

Even more of a stretch was Sedensky's argument that the 911 calls constituted records of child abuse that by law had to be kept confidential. Prescott noted that the calls do not include any descriptions of violence against children, making Sedensky's claim "attenuated at best."

In any case, the confidentiality requirement for child abuse records does not apply to violence committed by strangers. If it did, Prescott noted, police would be required to keep secret all records related to violent crimes with victims who are under 18, including gang shootings and home invasions.

Sedensky's arguments were flimsy covers for his actual motive, which was to shield the families of Lanza's victims from further pain. While that impulse is understandable, it does not carve out a FOIA exception. If it did, police could suppress information about crimes at will, sacrificing transparency and freedom of the press on an altar of sympathy.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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