Inmate wants graphic undercover bikini barista videos, city of Everett fights back
A man is requesting undercover police videos through Washington state’s open records law. But officials argue they can’t turn them over because the man is a sex offender in prison.
The case involves a clash over rights. The city of Everett argues the right to privacy. And on the other side is the public’s right to access government documents.
State law favors access to records.
“There’s very little information under our public records act that is private,” said attorney Steve DiJulio, who regularly works in open records litigation and is not involved in the case.
Everett says that the Constitution puts privacy first in this case, and that the city could be sued by the baristas if it were required to disclose the requested records.
“It is easy for a local government to simply release documents,” DiJulio said. “The sensitive issue is by releasing those documents -- in likely compliance with the Public Records Act -- is the local government subjecting itself to liability?"
The videos in question were recorded during an undercover police investigation in 2013. The videos reportedly show baristas at bikini coffee stands performing sex shows and engaging in prostitution.
A few years after the investigation, Jamie Wallin requested documents from the case as well as the digital surveillance video from the investigation.
Everett police initially said Wallin could come into the station and review the videos in person and make screenshots. That's difficult for Wallin because he is currently in prison at Washington State Penitentiary.
The city of Everett says releasing the video files to him could hurt the women and would violate their privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Wallin has a history of raping and molesting multiple young girls as far back at 1995 when he was first convicted. He’s also been found to create homemade child pornography.
Wallin says he is being discriminated against based on his criminal record and incarceration.
A legal brief from the city is due in court Monday.