Jo Ann Osberg, the former records manager for Aurora, Illinois, was named in a federal lawsuit by seven current and former police officers and their families. They allege that Osberg provided unredacted police personnel files to an imprisoned felon in October 2015.
Imprisoned Felon Alleged He’s Performing an Investigation
The imprisoned felon, Jesse Alvarez, received an 88 year prison sentence for the attempted murder of a rival gang member. Alvarez sent a handwritten request for information regarding the officers involved in his case. Alvarez alleged that he needed the information because he planned to pursue post-conviction relief.
Unredacted Information Found During Audit
The City of Aurora admitted in court documents filed in late 2016 that they told the involved officers that their home addresses, information about family members, social security numbers, and phone numbers had been provided to at least one incarcerated felon involved in a street gang. The City of Aurora claimed it did so because the request fell under the Freedom of Information Act.
However, another court document states that an audit of the city’s FOIA response procedures that occurred in March 2017 proved that the city had provided other unredacted personnel files to at least one other felon. The city attorney, Mallory Milluzzi, denies that an audit ever occurred.
Judge Says Lawsuit Can Continue
Despite the City of Aurora and Osberg filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis ruled that the officers met the burden of proof to show that there was a state-created danger. Ellis wrote “Defendants perhaps confuse ‘danger’ with whether the private actor needs to actually commit harm to the plaintiffs for a state-created danger theory to apply. If the government throws an individual into a snake pit, and the individual is not harmed by the snakes, but hurts himself escaping the pit, the government has still placed the individual in danger that has caused the individual harm.”
Judge Ellis also cited a case where the City of Columbus, Ohio provided police personnel files to defense lawyers representing a violent gang member who was incarcerated. The judge ruled that the city “substantially increased the officers’ and their families’ vulnerability to private acts of vengeance.”