Craig Carter Sentencing

Ex-UA track and field assistant coach Craig Carter was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault in March.

The Arizona Daily Star is joining a legal action to unseal records in the taxpayer-funded civil suit filed against the University of Arizona and a convicted former assistant track and field coach.

The Star filed the motion in Pima County Superior Court Tuesday, asking the judge to modify two previous confidentiality orders and unseal any documents that had been previously filed under seal.

Craig Carter was sentenced to five years in prison in March after a jury convicted him of two counts of aggravated assault — one with a deadly weapon — in connection with his 2015 attack on former UA thrower Baillie Gibson.

The two had been involved in a sexual relationship at the time of the incident. In May 2015, Gibson went to Carter’s office to try to end the relationship. Carter grabbed Gibson by the throat and, with a box cutter in his other hand, threatened to cut her face.

Carter confessed to the crime during an interview with UAPD detectives. In the days following the incident in his office, Carter called, texted and emailed Gibson dozens of times, making overt threats to harm her in some of the messages. He was subsequently charged with several felonies in connection with harassment.

Days after his conviction on the aggravated assault charges, Carter pleaded guilty to domestic violence-related stalking and aggravated violation of a protective order in connection with the second case.

In November 2015, Gibson filed a lawsuit against Carter and the UA, saying the school had knowledge of the sexual relationship but failed to take action to protect her. UA track coach Fred Harvey and former UA athletic director Greg Byrne were initially named as defendants in the suit, but they were later dismissed.

Carter and his wife responded by countersuing Gibson for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Three months later, they filed an additional counterclaim against Gibson’s attorney, Lynne Cadigan, saying she had defamed them.

Because Carter was a state employee during the time period referenced in Gibson’s lawsuit, the state’s risk management division has been paying for his defense in the civil suit.

Through mid-October, attorneys for the UA and Carter have billed the state nearly $2.06 million for work in the case.

Since the lawsuit’s original filing in November 2015, hundreds of motions, responses, letters and discovery items have been filed under seal, severely limiting the public’s access to the case.

“This case is a matter of public concern in Arizona because it involves the conduct of a prominent employee of the University of Arizona, a public institution,” the motion says.

“It always implicates broader issues related to the institutional handling of sexual abuse and misconduct, which has been at the forefront of national public disclosure for more than a year.”

On Nov. 5, a Star reporter was asked to leave a hearing involving a motion for a protective order involving Gibson’s sexual history. Carter’s lawyers referenced two previous confidentiality orders established in 2017 to limit the sharing of pre-trial discovery or disclosure. Judge Charles Harrington said he wasn’t yet ready to deviate from the status quo and cleared the courtroom of all unrelated parties.

“Among the primary concerns of this Court 20 months ago in ordering that some records in the case be sealed was the fact that publicity may affect the ongoing criminal trial,” the motion says, adding that the criminal case is now over and the documents filed in connection with that case have since been released to the public.

The motion says that in many cases, a party must show compelling reasons to seal documents. However, the Carters — who want the records sealed — have not demonstrated any such reasons.

In early November, Cadigan filed a motion to unseal the documents in the case, with Carter and the UA both filing responses in the following weeks. The Star does not have access to those documents, as they were all filed under seal.

A hearing on the issue has been set for Thursday.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt.

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