NEW BRUNSWICK - Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey, who was recently ordered to pay two news organizations more than $100,000 for legal fees in a battle over a 911 call, defended his decision not to release a recording of the call related to a fatal police shooting.
On March 2, a state Appellate Court upheld a lower court decision ordering Carey’s office to pay $71,848.28 to the Home News Tribune and $39,583.51 to New Jersey Advance Media.
Both news organizations had gone to court seeking the recording of the call.
Carey, in a statement reacting to the appeals court decision, said “the 911 tape has very little to do with First Amendment Rights, and everything to do with common decency and protecting the privacy rights of those who may find themselves in a horrific situation.”
In January 2015, Old Bridge Township police received a call about a domestic disturbance and a knife-wielding man in a home. Police responded and confronted Talbot Schroeder, 75, who was armed with a knife and had already attempted to slit his wrists, authorities said.
They said Schroeder ignored orders to drop the knife, and then forced an unnamed police officer back against a wall, at which point the officer shot and killed him. A report later found the officer was justified.
The Home News Tribune and New Jersey Advance Media went to court seeking a recording of the 911 call.
The prosecutor’s office sought to block the release of the call, contending it revealed personal information. The office eventually released an edited version after a judge denied its request to keep the tape private. The news organizations then sued to recover legal fees.
Carey, in response to the appeals court decision to award the fees, said he had “a great deal of respect for the job reporters do, and the important role which media outlets serve.”
However, Carey said the 911 call was from a family “in extreme emotional distress,” in including comments from Schroeder’s wife and son.
“I assure you that the call is disturbing, and filled with panic as well as raw emotion,” he said.
Carey said a judge listened to the tape and ruled that the prosecutor’s office did not have to which had the audio of the distressed family members.