The community college where Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner was once a student must release more than 250 emails written about him in the months before he was suspended from campus, an Arizona judge has ruled.
The Arizona Republic sued Pima Community College over the records, arguing that they could help the public determine if the college took appropriate steps in dealing with Loughner after a series of incidents on campus.
Loughner, 22, had five run-ins with campus police for disruptions in class that left at least one teacher fearful and had officers discussing his mental stability. He was told in October to get a mental health evaluation or not return.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shootings at a meet-and-greet event outside a Tucson supermarket that left six people dead and 13 wounded including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A 9-year-old girl and a federal judge were among those killed in the rampage. Giffords survived a bullet wound to the head and is undergoing rehabilitation at a Houston hospital.
In his ruling, Pima County Superior Court Judge Stephen Villarreal rejected the college's argument that the emails were part of Loughner's official school record and protected from disclosure under a federal privacy law.
The emails were outside the scope of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which requires schools to protect specific student information such as grades and transcripts or risk losing federal funding, Villareal said. The federal law applies only to official education documents maintained by the college, such as transcripts kept in a permanent student file, he said.
Last month, the college released thousands of pages of emails sent to and from college faculty, students and staff in the days after the shootings. However, many of those emails were partly or wholly redacted.
College chancellor Roy Flores on Wednesday said the college wouldn't challenge the latest ruling and could release the emails later this week.
Villareal made his decision after privately reviewing the 255 emails. The judge is still weighing whether to release additional documents about Loughner that the college provided to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Loughner was returned to a federal prison facility in Tucson late last month after spending five weeks at a Bureau of Prisons facility in Missouri, where he underwent mental exams. A mental competency hearing is scheduled Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Tucson.