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BYU appeals order to release police interview with ex-MTC president accused of rape

FILE - A photo taken in 2013 shows part of Brigham Young University Campus and the Provo

Missionary Training Center.
FILE - A photo taken in 2013 shows part of Brigham Young University Campus and the Provo Missionary Training Center.
Jaren Wilkey, BYU

SALT LAKE CITY — Brigham Young University is challenging a State Records Committee decision ordering the school to release the recording of a campus police interview with a former Missionary Training Center president who allegedly raped a sister missionary 34 years ago.

The Provo-based university, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, filed a petition for judicial review in 4th District Court on Tuesday seeking to overturn the "erroneous" decision.

Lawyers for the school argue BYU and its police force are a "private, nongovernmental entity" not subject to Utah's Government Records and Access and Management Act.

In March and April, KUTV, the Truth and Transparency Foundation and Corbin T. Volluz in separate requests under GRAMA sought a 2017 BYU police interview with Joseph L. Bishop.

Campus police denied the requests and subsequent appeals, contending BYU and the police department are not subject to GRAMA.

KUTV, the transparency foundation and Volluz appealed to the State Records Committee.

After oral argument and testimony in July, the committee found that BYU improperly classified the records as private.

Releasing the recording would not be a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” because the information in the interview has already been made public, according to the decision. Also, the committee said BYU did not provide a valid reason for keeping information from a closed investigation nonpublic.

Under state law, the committee's decision may be appealed by filing a complaint for judicial review in state court.

BYU says in its complaint that campus police "voluntarily" provided some documents to KUTV but denied the request for the audio recording because university police is an "internal department of a private university" not a government entity subject to the state's open records law.

"Even if GRAMA applied to BYU, the audio recording KUTV requested from university police would be a private record not subject to disclosure under GRAMA in any event," according to the complaint.

McKenna Denson alleged Bishop raped her while she was a missionary at the MTC in 1984. He has denied the accusation.

The 55-year-old Colorado woman sued Bishop and the LDS Church for sexual assault and battery, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent nondisclosure and fraudulent concealment.

A federal judge earlier this month dismissed her claims against Bishop and all but the fraudulent concealment claim against the church, ruling that the statute of limitations has expired.

Denson posed as a reporter to confront Bishop last December when she said the former MTC president told her about his sexual history and addiction. Her interview became public when a website released their taped conversation and its 76-page transcript.