The Attorney General’s Office response to my Freedom of Information request pertaining to the Pryde and Peterson lawsuit against Virginia Tech is--not to release any documents. This lack of transparency regarding school shootings in Virginia is the norm and raises troubling questions. Consistently, pertinent information to these crimes has not been shared with investigators or the public.
The failure of the State Police and the ATF to give documents concerning Seung-Hui Cho’s gun purchases to the Governor’s Review Panel Report means a critical part of the puzzle is missing for both investigators and the public.
This pattern of not sharing vital information to people investigating school shootings is all too frequent in Virginia. At the time of the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law, the police and Attorney General’s office refused to make information public pertaining to a threat that one of the victims received.
Now, the Attorney General’s office refuses to make public any documents pertaining to its hiring of Dr. Dennis Mileti as an expert consultant for the state in the Pryde and Peterson trial. So, the question remains, why was Mileti paid over $27,000.00 in consultation fees? He appears to posses few if any qualifications to give expert testimony on mass shootings. Was this some sort of ‘ole boy’ network at work? I am really at a loss to see what Mileti could supply that is worth $27,000.00.
If you look at Mileti’s biography he specializes in natural disasters, earthquakes, and volcanoes. The Attorney General did not call him to testify. Here is Mileti’s biography:
Dr. Mileti is Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he served as Chair of the Department of Sociology and as Director of the Natural Hazards Center—the U.S.’s national clearinghouse for social and behavioral science research on hazards and disasters.
Dr. Mileti is the author of more than 100 publications, most of which are on the societal aspects of hazards and disasters. His book Disasters by Design summarized and assessed knowledge in all disciplines and U.S. national policy for hazards and disasters. He was the founder and coeditor-in-chief of the all-hazards and all-disciplines journal Natural Hazards Review.
He has served on a variety of advisory boards, including the Committee on Natural Disasters in the National Research Council; the Board of Visitors to FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute; the Board of Directors of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute; the Advisory Board to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Research Program on Earthquakes and Volcanoes; the Expert Advisory Panel for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s study of evacuation of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11; the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Expert Panel for the Army Corps of Engineers’ assessment of the New Orleans levee failures, for which he was given the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal by the Department of the Army; and as a member of the California Seismic Safety Commission. Dr. Mileti is currently a member of the START Center at the University of Maryland, which is a Department of Homeland Security National Center of Excellence for research on terrorism. He also serves on the NRC’s Committee to Evaluate the U.S.’s National Tsunami Warning Program and on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Earthquake Center.
Here is the response from the Attorney General’s office:
COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Office of the Attorney General
December 6, 2012
Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482
Re: Freedom of Information Request
Dear Mr. Cariens;
This office is in receipt of your request for records made in accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, 2.2-3700 et seq.
You have asked for several different categories of documents pertaining to Dr. Dennis Mileti, an expert witness retained to testify in the Pryde and Petersen trial. You requested the “document review” itemized by Dr. Mileti as well as Dr. Mileti’s review of “documents from their expert,” “Laughery deposition and attachments,” and Dr. MIleti’s review of “Morva documents.”
Counsel’s communications with Dr. Mileti including counsel’s requests that Dr. Mileti review certain documents were done in anticipation of litigation, and were made for use during litigation. They reflect counsel’s legal theories and constitute the work product of defense counsel. These materials are work product prepared for use in litigation and will be withheld pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3705 (3) which creates an exclusion from the Freedom of Information Act for such work product.
Dr. Mileti’s “write up of draft opinions,” notes of telephone conversations with Ed. Spencer, Kim O’Rourke, Lisa Wilkes and attorneys, and the unobtrusive indicators study are not in the possession of this Office. Furthermore, and such documents created by Dr. Mileti for use in litigation constitute work product which is exempt from disclosure pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3705.1 (3).
“Deposition guidance for our attorneys,” “bibliography preparation for deposition” and any notes, records or documents related to “position plan development,” were created by Dr. Mileti for use in the litigation and they constitute work product which is exempt from disclosure pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3075.1 (3).
None of the documents you refer to in paragraphs 5 and 6 of your letter of November 26, 2012 are in the possession of this office.
All of the documents that you have requested relate to an expert witness retained to testify in a lawsuit. As such, these materials, which approximate 500 pages, constitute “work product complied specifically for use in litigation” pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3705.1 (3). For this reason, these documents will not be released.
Peter R. Messitt
Senior Assistant Attorney General