CNN sues Blaine County for Bergdahl records

Idaho Mountain Express (Ketchum)July 4, 2014 

Cable News Network has sued Blaine County seeking information from a 1999 police investigation involving the family of Bowe Bergdahl, the Wood River Valley soldier who spent five years in captivity of the Taliban.

CNN says the report from the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is subject to disclosure under Idaho public records laws. Sheriff Gene Ramsey has twice denied the network's request.

“I have declined to release the report because I feel it should be exempt from disclosure, because it would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” Ramsey told the Idaho Mountain Express. The sheriff said the report comes from “an investigation in 1999 in which no charges were filed.”

In correspondence with CNN, Ramsey based his refusal on Idaho Code 9-335, a statute that exempts disclosure of documents that would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Bergdahl, 28, a U.S. Army sergeant from Hailey, has received international news media attention since his capture in Afghanistan in June 2009. Bergdahl was released by Taliban forces May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held by the United States.

The lawsuit stems from a public records request filed with Ramsey on June 11 by CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera, based in Dallas, and CNN producer Rosalina Nieves, based in Los Angeles. In the request, CNN asked for “all documents related to law enforcement activities involving members of the Bergdahl family — Robert, Jani, Bowe and Sky — and/or reports at the Bergdahl residence” on Croy Creek Road “from 1986 to the present.”

Ramsey responded the same day by providing reports on three investigations involving the Bergdahls, one on March 27, 1998, another on Jan. 30, 2013, and a third on Aug. 25, 2013. However, the sheriff referenced but declined to release a report from an investigation on Nov. 4, 1999.

CNN, through Boise attorney Debra Kristensen, of the Boise law firm Givens Pursley, responded to Ramsey’s reply June 18. Kristensen alleged that failure to disclose the document violated Idaho public records law and Idaho Supreme Court guidance that exemptions be “construed narrowly.”

Kristensen said a redacted version, wherein portions of the document could be blacked out, would be acceptable to CNN.

Kristensen threatened legal action to obtain the “record in its entirety or, at the very least, relevant information contained therein.”

Ramsey responded with his second refusal June 20.

The lawsuit was filed June 25 in District Court. A hearing is scheduled at 2 p.m. July 21 before District Judge Robert J. Elgee.

What the released documents say

The three investigative reports Ramsey provided to CNN are also partially redacted but provide sufficient information to ascertain the purpose behind the police investigation. All three reports are attached as exhibits to the CNN complaint.

The March 27, 1998 investigation involves a report by the Bergdahl family of someone driving by the Bergdahl residence and shooting out the rear window of one of their vehicles with a pellet gun. According to the report compiled by former Deputy Ron Taylor, Bowe Bergdahl, then 12, witnessed the shooting. There is nothing in the report to indicate whether or not the culprit was apprehended.

The Jan. 29, 2013 report involves a welfare check requested by Idaho Falls resident Tyler J. Webb, who wanted to know the living conditions of his children, in custody of his estranged wife Shekinah A. Davies, who was staying then at the Bergdahl home. Deputy Kristen Quinton wrote in her report that she visited the Bergdahl home and reported back to Webb that the “children were safe and well taken care of.”

The Aug. 25, 2013 report involves a potential “road rage” incident involving Bowe Bergdahl’s father, Bob Bergdahl, and his mother, Jani Bergdahl. According to a report compiled by Deputy Quinton, the Bergdahls on their motorcycles followed a man, identified as Sun Valley resident Ignacio Eugenio Lozano, who they claimed cut them off in his vehicle where the northbound lanes of state Highway 75 merge from two lanes into one just north of East Fork Road. The report says Lozano, suspicious that he was being followed, drove to the Sun Valley Police Department and was followed there by the Bergdahls. After discussion with police about the incident, Quinton wrote that both parties apologized.

Undisclosed reports

According to Blaine County court records, there was another Sheriff’s Office investigation involving the Bergdahls that was not disclosed to CNN.

Court records state that Jani Bergdahl was convicted in 2007 of a “vicious dogs” misdemeanor violation. She pleaded guilty, was given a 10-day suspended jail sentence and fined $225.50.

Court records also show a case involving Bowe Bergdahl. However, the case is sealed, making it impossible without a court order changing the case’s status to discern when the case was filed or whether it was a civil or criminal action. All that currently can be ascertained from the court listing is that Bowe Bergdahl was named as a party in the case.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service