Utah Authorities Refunding $3,000 Charged for Bodycam Video of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

by Clayton Edwards
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Utah’s Moab Police Department had two of the biggest pieces of evidence in the Gabby Petito case. Their officers recorded two bodycam videos while stopping Petito and Brian Laundrie outside of Arches National Park. In the end, these videos didn’t do much to help locate Petito or Laundrie. However, they did bring the Moab PD under scrutiny for several reasons.

First, the department came under fire for withholding the second bodycam video. It took them over two weeks and pressure from a former district attorney to release the footage. The second video showed Gabby Petito claiming that Brian Laundrie physically assaulted her, a statement that was missing from the first video. The Moab police chief publicly announced that they were inundated by requests for the video which prevented them from providing it in a timely manner.

The huge influx of requests for the Gabby Petito footage is causing another problem for the Moab PD now. It turns out that the department charged each media outlet $98 for the video. These charges seem to violate Utah State law. As a result, they’ll be refunding those fees. Salt Lake Tribune broke the story yesterday.

According to the report, the Moab PD collected a total of $2,940 in fees from media outlets that requested the Gabby Petito footage. This is almost three times what they planned to collect from records requests for the entire fiscal year. They’ll start processing the refunds as soon as next week.

Outrageous Fees for Gabby Petito Bodycam Footage

The Tribune found out about the fees when they requested the video. The Moab PD charged them $98 for the Gabby Petito footage. At that point, The Tribune requested a fee waiver, but a representative for the PD said their waiver was “not applicable” to the bodycam video. When The Tribune requested the footage, the PD had already charged the fee to more than 20 outlets.

Those fees, they said, were to cover the cost of reviewing the footage and redacting protected information. Lisa Church, Moab city spokesperson said, “Even if one person were charged a fee, once that document was created, everyone else should not have been charged.” Furthermore, the charges violate Utah state law. Per The Tribune, the law states that agencies can only charge for the “actual costs of providing a record,” but encourages entities to release records for free to news outlets.

Moab PD only made the move to refund the charges for the Gabby Petito videos after The Tribune contacted them with questions about the fees and their legality under Utah state law.

Jeff Hunt, a Utah-based First Amendment and media law attorney told the publication that records fees have gone down in recent years. Hunt called the fees “unusual and excessive” but commended the PD for doing the right thing by refunding those fees.

Outsider.com