Judge bars release of information from Kustok murder case
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org November 21, 2011 5:44PM
Updated: November 21, 2011 6:32PM
A Cook County judge granted prosecutors’ request to seal an Orland Park man’s murder case file Monday, in light of a public records request already under the Illinois attorney general’s review.
Judge John J. Hynes signed an order Monday barring the release of any police reports or other potential evidence in the murder case against Allan Kustok, including the names or any other information about potential witnesses.
The order forbids the release of the records “whether through a Freedom of Information Act request or otherwise.”
The ruling essentially bypassed the independent review of records tasked by state law in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to the attorney general’s office. The review step was designed to mediate disputes over public records by impartial public access counselors.
Sun-Times Media filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, asking Orland Park police for reports resulting from the Sept. 29, 2010, shooting death of Anita “Jeanie” Kustok and subsequent charges against her husband, Allan Kustok.
Orland Park denied the request, citing an exemption in the law for records that are part of pending investigations.
So the newspaper appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, asking, as the law requires, for Orland Park to show how releasing the reports jeopardizes the investigation against Kustok, the lone suspect who was arrested and arraigned many months ago.
The attorney general’s office sought to independently review the records before deciding, but prosecutors stepped in.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Gonzalez cited state supreme court evidence rules and asked Hynes to bar the release of any documents or reports in the case to any third party, saying “the release of these police reports threatens to compromise the prosecution of this case.”
She did not elaborate. And Kustok’s attorney, Rick Beuke, did not object to sealing the file.
In a letter to Hynes, a Sun-Times Media attorney spelled out his “concerns in safeguarding public access guaranteed by the FOIA.”
“The village did not submit any documents for review by the Attorney General’s Office and instead the State’s Attorney filed the Emergency Motion,” James McDonough wrote.
“Under FOIA the Village police reports are public records and the Act prescribes procedures for dealing with the Village’s objections. Those procedures are playing out with before the Attorney General and we expect the Village to comply with them.”
Hynes gave a draft of the his order to attorneys in the case last week, a draft that was refused to reporters.
The judge did not include any reason for the protective order.
In a statement, attorney general’s spokeswoman Maura Possley said, “We think the Public Access Counselor’s role in the FOIA process contributes to a proper airing of public documents. In this case, the State’s Attorney Office chose to bring the matter to the circuit court judge and he issued his ruling.”