BILLINGS – The Billings Gazette and KTVQ are counter-suing the city and three unidentified police officers in a legal battle over whether the identities of the officers, who were disciplined for having sex either on duty or on city property, should be made public.
In a counterclaim filed Thursday, the news organizations asked District Court Judge Michael Moses to release requested documents and award attorney fees. The newspaper and television station are jointly represented by Sheehy Law Firm.
Three officers — two of whom were on duty at the time — admitted to having sex on city property with a city employee and were put on a period of unpaid administrative leave as discipline, The Gazette reported in April.
The incidents occurred between 2013 and 2016, according to affidavits filed by the unidentified officers.
The media outlets are asking for immediate release of the officers’ original, un-redacted court filings, which contain the officers’ names.
They are also seeking the police department’s investigatory files on the incidents, a record of dispatch calls corresponding to the 24-hour periods when the encounters took place and the moral turpitude sections of the department’s policy handbook.
The outlets have asked for an order requiring the city to pay their legal fees.
“That award is within the court’s discretion, so we made the request,” said attorney Martha Sheehy.
A hearing is set for May 14.
The officers have argued the sexual encounters were private, were not criminal and did not warrant public disclosure, which they said would hinder them in their continued work on the police force.
The Billings Gazette Editorial Board has said the newspaper is pursuing the officers’ identities because the sexual incidents cast a shadow on the officers’ judgement and they should be held accountable for the misconduct.
Reporting by Q2 News, The Billings Gazette, and Phoebe Tollefson