Judge orders release of Newtown 911 calls

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HARTFORD, Conn. — A Superior Court judge Tuesday ordered the release of the 911 calls made from Sandy Hook Elementary School to Newtown police on the morning of the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings, rejecting arguments from prosecutors that the audio recordings should remain private.

At Superior Court in New Britain, Judge Eliot D. Prescott, who listened to the 911 calls Monday, ordered the tapes to be released Dec. 4.

In a 33-page decision released Tuesday, Prescott criticized Danbury State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III's efforts to keep the tapes private. He described Sedensky's argument for continued seal as bordering on "frivolous" and "at its heart … an assertion that the records are exempt because 'I say so.'"

The Freedom of Information Commission in September ordered Newtown police to release tapes of 911 calls made from inside the school during the attack that killed 20 first-graders and six educators, ruling unanimously that the calls were not exempt from mandatory disclosure. Sedensky appealed the ruling in court and sought a stay of the order to release the tapes.

Prescott on Tuesday denied Sedensky's motion for a stay and dismissed the claims Sedensky made in his appeal. The release of the 911 calls, which are ordinarily public record, became a controversial issue and some individuals most affected by the tragedy had asked that the tapes be kept private.

"The court recognizes and is deeply sensitive to the fact that the families and friends of those who died in this tragedy, as well as others in the greater Newtown community, may desire that the 911 audio recordings never be released," Prescott wrote.

Prescott wrote that the release of the tapes would allow the public to evaluate law enforcement's response on Dec. 14.