Media seek work records of Idaho professor in murder-suicide
UI case goes before judge next month MCT REGIONAL NEWS By Joel Mills Lewiston Tribune, Idaho (MCT)
Sept. 10--MOSCOW -- Second District Judge John R. Stegner will hear oral arguments Oct. 3 regarding the release of the employment records of the former University of Idaho professor who murdered one of his students last month.
The records for Ernesto Bustamante are being sought by the Lewiston Tribune and other news organizations, including the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, the Idaho Statesman, the Associated Press, the Idaho Press Club and Spokane television media.
The UI is also seeking the release of the records, and is asking the court to interpret Idaho public records law to determine whether Bustamante's death allows them to be disclosed. Bustamante killed himself after gunning down graduate student Katy Benoit at her off-campus residence Aug. 22.
"The university is grateful to the court for putting this on a fast track," Charles Graham, senior associate general counsel for the UI, said in a statement. Charles Brown, attorney for the news outlets, asked Stegner during a Friday telephone conference if it would be helpful if he and the university's attorneys could agree on a set of facts by Friday.
"Facts are always helpful to a fact finder," Stegner said, adding if the parties cannot agree, a Sept. 23 deadline to file legal briefs and the oral arguments next month would have to be postponed.
Also on Friday, a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice and two higher education administrators were named to the panel that will review UI security policies in the wake the murder-suicide.
UI President Duane Nellis said former Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout, University of Montana Vice President of Administration and Finance Bob Duringer and Oregon State University Vice Provost for Student Affairs Larry Roper will make up the panel.
Higher education security consultant Gary Margolis, president of Margolis and Healy: Solutions for Safe Campuses, will advise with the panel as they begin their work next week, Nellis said.
Panel members will have full access to UI personnel and policy documents as they conduct their probe, he said.
"Let me reiterate that I am committed to ensuring full disclosure and to promoting the safest possible university environment," Nellis said in a statement. "That's why an independent review is essential. We must be certain that we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our university community. We believe we are, but we want to make sure."
Nellis has stated that he would like the panel to complete its work in 60 to 90 days.
Benoit, a 22-year-old psychology graduate student from Boise, was shot 11 times by Bustamante, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound early the next morning at a Moscow hotel.
Benoit had a previous romantic relationship with Bustamante that soured earlier this year, leading to Bustamante threatening Benoit with a gun on three separate occasions.
Benoit filed a complaint with the UI in June, which led to Bustamante's resignation three days before Benoit was killed.
The UI has already released an account of actions it took to protect Benoit, and Nellis said he is committed to the release of Bustamante's records as allowed by law.
Stegner offered to recuse himself from hearing the case since he contributes financially to the UI College of Law, and occasionally teaches there. But none of the attorneys involved said that would be necessary.
Mills may be contacted at jmillslmtribune.com or (208) 883-0564.
(c)2011 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)
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