Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos is asking a judge to allow his department to withhold records related to the victim of an alleged sexual assault involving the former UA pharmacy dean.

In a Sept. 8 filing in Pima County Superior Court, Nanos' attorney, Daryl Audilett asked Judge Sarah Simmons to block requests for information by a private investigator working on behalf of Jesse Lyle Bootman.

Last October, Bootman, then dean of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, was indicted on multiple felony charges related to the alleged rape of an unconscious woman in his Foothills home, court records show. He has since been indicted on additional charges of kidnapping and drugging the woman.

Nanos' request says that since a gag order was issued no other records requests have been made for information about Bootman, but his private investigator has instead requested information about the victim.

In an Aug. 11 public records request, Randy Downer Jr., of Inter-state Investigative Services, asked for an index of all contact with the victim by the sheriff's department, saying the information was "essential to mounting an effective defense."

The sheriff's department disagreed.

"The public records request in question is simply designed to dig up 'dirt' on a sexual assault victim," Audilett wrote in the complaint. "The public records request in question is not an appropriate use of the laws surrounding freedom of information."

Audilett was unable to comment to the Star as the case is pending litigation. Downer was unable to discuss the case since Judge Scott Rash issued a gag order in March.

"Mr. Downer, being a diligent private investigator, of course accesses public records constantly as part of his job," Michael Bloom, Downer's attorney, wrote in an email. "An individual or his investigator does not need a 'reason' to access public records."

Joshua Hamilton, one of Bootman's attorneys in the criminal case, also declined to comment because of the gag order.

Dan Barr, counsel to the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, said asking a judge to allow an agency to withhold documents is fairly standard.

This is a "tactic employed by public bodies to discourage people from making requests, and getting the person to drop it," he said.

Typically, the public agency responds directly to the requester, either providing the information or denying it. If the requester is unhappy with the response, he or she has the option to file suit in court to challenge the denial.

It's unclear if Nanos responded directly to Downer's request before filing the complaint in court.

"The request (for public records) doesn't violate victim's rights laws, and it has nothing to do with this crime or the person's status as a victim," Barr said. "The records may not produce anything of value, but what they're asking for are still public records."

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191


 

I'm a watchdog reporter covering local government, the University of Arizona and sports investigations.