FBI, Texas AG reject requests for documents related to Alabama-Coushatta homicide

Source: San Jacinto County Jail
Source: San Jacinto County Jail

POLK COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - In letters dated just days apart, the Texas Attorney General's Office and the FBI have rejected requests to release the records related to the death of a Livingston man on the Alabama-Coushatta reservation.

Once the tribe rejected KTRE's request to release an arrest affidavit for Matthew Battise, KTRE requested the document from the FBI, which is assisting in the investigation.

Tribal Judge Dana Williams rejected the request in May, saying the tribe does not have to adhere to Freedom of Information Act laws.

In a letter dated July 12, FBI Section Chief David M. Hardy stated KTRE has not "sufficiently demonstrated that the public's interest in disclosure outweighs personal privacy interests of the subject."

KTRE's legal team sent a letter to the FBI on June 28, stating the records "are of the utmost public interest because they concern a homicide that occurred on tribal land within the KTRE viewing area. ...There is a substantial public interest in information regarding crimes committed in Polk County, particularly homicides. Citizens, for their own safety and that of their families, have an interest in knowing what occurred and how the investigation is proceeding. Furthermore, KTRE is not requesting personal records of a private nature. Rather, KTRE is requesting the arrest affidavit, a routine document in a criminal investigation. The number of news articles published and news stories broadcast on this homicide shows a clear public interest. And the personal privacy interests are low, given the nature of the record sought."

KTRE requested the autopsy from the office of Justice of the Peace Larry Whitworth on June 6. Whitworth's office. Whitworth appealed the request to the Texas Attorney General's Office.

In a letter dated July 14, the AG office stated the requested information is not subject to the Public Information Act because it is maintained by a judiciary body, which is not considered a governmental body.

Sadler died on April 17 at a home on the reservation.

Battise was later arrested and charged by Alabama-Coushatta police. He is in the San Jacinto County Jail on a charge of aggravated assault.

Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon confirmed his office has received the paperwork for the investigation and will determine whether or not Battise should receive any state charges. He said Battise's current charge is not a state charge so there is no arrest affidavit filed through any justice of the peace. He said Battise's case could go before a grand jury before he's arrested on a state charge.

KTRE is determining its next course of action.

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