Judge allows news media to intervene in courthouse shooting lawsuit

Posted at 7:51 AM, Jul 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-29 10:09:36-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has allowed Utah news media outlets, including FOX 13, to intervene in a lawsuit over a shooting inside the federal courthouse.

In an order handed down this week, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Cleary granted a request to intervene in a lawsuit filed against the federal government by Siale Angilau’s family, ruling it is in the interest of public access to judicial records.

“Denial of the Motion to Intervene will potentially impair public access to judicial records and proceedings by precluding a timely assertion of common law and First Amendment rights,” he wrote.

Crime scene tape outside the U.S. District Courthouse following a shooting in one of the courtrooms on April 21, 2014. (FOX 13 file image)

The Angilau family has filed an excessive force lawsuit against the federal government over the 2014 shooting. Angilau, an alleged gang member, was on trial for racketeering charges when police said he grabbed a pen and charged at a witness testifying against him. A U.S. Marshal shot and killed him in the courtroom.

Since then, the government has refused to release courtroom security video of the incident or the name of the marshal who fired the fatal shot. Freedom of Information Act requests have been repeatedly rejected. A coalition of news media led by the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (and including FOX 13) have argued it is a matter of public interest and record. The Angilau family has not objected to the coalition of news media’s requests to intervene; the government does.

In his ruling, Judge Clearly chastised the government for claiming the court might ultimately find the video “inadmissible, irrelevant or immaterial.”

“The Court finds this argument wholly meritless. Clearly, as described above, the parties and the Court have demonstrated that the courtroom shooting video is the critical evidence in this case,” he wrote. “It strains credulity to believe that the video will be found inadmissible or immaterial.”