Lowcountry Headlines

Lowcountry Headlines


Judge rules Charleston County Sheriff’s Office violated FOIA law

Judge hitting sound box with gavel

Photo: Getty Images

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A judge ruled in favor of Live 5 News Monday in its lawsuit against the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office over its refusal to release jail video calls made by a suspect in a deadly DUI crash that killed a newlywed in April.

Jamie Komoroski, 25, is charged with three counts of felony DUI causing bodily injury or death and reckless homicide after the April 28 crash. The sheriff’s office released audio and video from calls made by Komoroski to the Post and Courier after that outlet requested the recordings through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Justice Jean Toal ruled that the sheriff’s office violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act when it denied a similar FOIA request made by Live 5 News.

“FOIA is that important. We have sunshine laws, that’s exactly why we have FOIA-- is we want to know what our government actors are doing. It’s our right as taxpayers,” Mark Peper, an attorney representing Live 5, said.

The sheriff’s office denied a request from Live 5 News for the same material, stating the denial was made because of “counsel and other interested parties [raising] a concern that similar record releases would materially interfere with the administration of justice.”

The suit, filed by Live 5 WCSC’s parent company, Gray Television LLC, named Kristin Graziano in her official capacity as sheriff of Charleston County. The lawsuit states that the sheriff’s office’s legal counsel said on June 9 that the prior release of the requested information was “erroneous” and that the “erroneous prior release...has been mitigated by a clawback request.”

“What should have happened prior to today is the sheriff’s office should have gone through each one and cited a specific exemption to the extent one existed. We take the position, there are no exemptions that are pursuant to these recordings. The Sheriff’s Office was not able to convince the court today that any exemptions applied either. And as a result, the judge says channel 5 is getting it all,” Peper said.

The Post and Courier’s reporting of the contents of the videos remains on its website.

It was not immediately clear when the records will be released, although Peper estimates Toal will issue an official order late next week.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office’s defense team declined to comment on the ruling.

Peper also expects the department to file an appeal.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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