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Criminal Justice | State Government

Republican AG group continues legal fight for footage of Ford and son

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford does interviews in Carson City on Feb. 9, 2017. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

A national organization for Republican attorney general candidates is still fighting in Nevada courts to unseal body camera footage of Attorney General Aaron Ford allegedly “using his position of authority as an elected official” to exert influence during an incident involving his child and the police.

The Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Thursday in an appeal brought by the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), stemming from a lawsuit filed by the group in September 2018 to obtain Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department body camera footage involving an incident with Ford in November 2017. A District Court judge denied the group’s request in October 2018, leading to the appeal to the state’s Supreme Court.

RAGA — a political organization that ran ads attacking Ford and supporting his Republican opponent, Wes Duncan — said last year it had heard from a “credible,” unnamed anonymous source that Ford attempted to influence an outcome involving police, and said the group had submitted carefully tailored public records requests focused only on Ford that excluded any footage of minors. But the records request were denied by Metro, which said the records were confidential because they involved children under the age of 18.

In a statement at the time, Ford’s campaign manager called the November interaction with the police a “minor incident on private property involving one of their pre-teen children.”

In court documents, RAGA said Metro stated that portions of the body camera footage had been “intentionally muted” by responding officers, used “almost exclusively” during their interactions with then-state Sen. Ford. Metro has claimed in court documents that it cannot release any of the body camera footage because doing so would violate the confidentiality of juvenile records.

Colleen McCarty, an attorney with Clark Hill PLLC representing RAGA, told the court that she found it “difficult to fathom” that the entirety of the 16 hours of body camera footage would be exempted from public record disclosure because of limitations on what information on juveniles can be released.

“Our issue is this is an interaction involving an adult involving a public official and if (state law) is allowed to be utilized and bootstrapped in that way, we are only protecting the conduct of an adult public official and what greater public interest is there then how public officials behave?,” she asked.

McCarty suggested that the court could order the release of the records with faces blurred, or have the sound removed to avoid the release of any confidential information. According to a log of the videos, provided by Metro to the District Court, Ford arrived at the scene about an hour after police were called in and made arrests, and he stayed at the scene for several hours. 

Jackie Nichols, an attorney with Marquis Aurbach Coffing representing the police department, said that the agency had already provided a detailed log of the video to RAGA, and that a review of the body camera footage would be nigh-impossible to successfully redact the video as it almost entirely deals with juvenile justice issues that are exempt from public records law.

“It’s all related to juvenile justice information because it’s about the crimes that were committed by the juveniles,” she said. “It’s discussion with the victim, it’s located at the specific scene. And so all of that, the video in its entirety would fall subject to the juvenile justice information (limits on public records).”

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