Troopers' Union Challenges Release of Attica Documents
ALBANY - The union representing New York state troopers urged a judge Friday not to release sealed documents about the 1971 riot and retaking of Attica state prison in western New York.
The troopers' Police Benevolent Association opposed Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's request to open remaining volumes of the 1975 Meyer Commission Report (NYLJ, Oct. 29, 2013). State Supreme Court Justice Patrick NeMoyer (See Profile) in Buffalo set a Jan. 17 deadline for written submissions.
In all, 11 prison workers and 32 inmates died—all but four shot by troopers and guards retaking the prison.
The union has a duty to protect the rights of troopers forced to testify about their actions during the riot, as well as those who have had to recount it in criminal investigations and two decades of lawsuits, President Thomas Mungeer said Friday. While he doesn't believe there's anything to hide, he said that painstaking investigations long ago concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing by troopers and this would open old wounds.
"The PBA has stood by them and will continue to stand by them in order to preserve the sanctity of confidential testimony during the grand jury process for all citizens," Mungeer said. The union represents 3,500 uniformed troopers and about 3,000 retirees. An estimate last year suggested 40 or 50 had been at Attica then, he said.
Schneiderman has said he wants to reveal the fuller history of the nation's bloodiest prison rebellion and answer the questions of families whose loved ones died.
Among those seeking the records are the Forgotten Victims of Attica, a group of prison employees who survived and relatives of those who died.
Schneiderman noted the historical significance and the fact that all related criminal and civil litigation has ended. And after 40 years, he said, the privacy concerns can be addressed more narrowly by omitting only the names of many grand jury witnesses and some people identified in testimony.
Known as the Meyer Commission Report for the late judge who headed the investigation, the 570-page document was divided into volumes. The first with broad findings and recommendations was released, but the others were sealed in 1981 because they contain grand jury testimony.