SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has sided with news organizations seeking video of a courtroom marshal fatally shooting an accused gang member as he lunged at a witness.
Magistrate Judge Paul Cleary on Wednesday ordered the release of an altered version of the recording, which obscures the faces of law enforcement officers, including the marshal who fired and struck the 25-year-old Siale Angilau four times during the federal racketeering trial in 2014.
The decision "satisfies the obligation to provide public access to judicial documents," the order states, while protecting the safety of law enforcement and courtroom employees.
The decision sets the release of the footage for Dec. 14. That's unless attorneys for the U.S. government appeal the decision in the next two weeks.
The attorneys fighting the video's release have argued that even the blurred video would jeopardize courtroom security and risk the safety of those shown in the recording.
Those concerns "are not sufficiently compelling to overcome the public's right of access to at least the 24-second pixelated video" of the public trial, Cleary wrote.
Government attorneys did not immediately return a phone message and email left late Wednesday.
The video fails to reveal any "sensitive procedures" and does not show faces of jurors, the judge wrote. Even if it shows courtroom security protocol, the court can rework its procedures, changing up where officers stand and where cameras are positioned, as well as emergency plans, the ruling states.
Government attorneys also have argued that an agreement between the federal courts system and U.S. Marshals bars the release of the recording, but those concerns "pale in comparison to the public interest," Cleary wrote.
The shooting that left Angilau dead and stunned jurors came roughly a week after the courthouse opened.
As a witness named Vaiola Tenifa testified about the inner workings of the Tongan Crips gang on April 21, 2014, Angilau grabbed a pen and charged at him, the FBI has said. The marshal identified as "Jane Doe" shot Angilau four times. He died of his wounds.
The marshal has never been identified but was cleared following an FBI investigation.1 comment on this story
The group of Utah journalists led by the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists includes the Deseret News, KSL-TV, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Associated Press. Reporters earlier sought the footage under federal open records law but were unsuccessful. An audio recording capturing the chaos of the shooting already has been released.
The video footage was admitted as evidence earlier this year as family members of Angilau pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, calling the marshal's actions "particularly unreasonable, reckless and constitutionally excessive."
The wrongful death lawsuit is ongoing.