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D.C. Appeals Court Mixed on Request for Records and Video

While held at FCI Gilmer in West Virginia, Michael Evans was stabbed multiple times with a Phillips-head screwdriver. The May 2, 2013, incident occurred in the dining hall. Evans sued under the Federal Torts Claims Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the screwdriver was FCI Gilmer property and that guards failed to secure it. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) disclaimed ownership, and the lawsuits were dismissed.

While those suits were pending, Evans submitted an FOIA request seeking records from 2003 to 2013 concerning receipt of tools at the prison and video from his assault. The BOP responded that it would cost around $14,320 to process the request.

Evans narrowed his request by including a picture of the screwdriver and asked to receive information related to it and to provide the video. BOP denied the request on grounds that the screwdriver was never its property and claimed exemptions that disallowed disclosure of the video.

Evans sought to compel production in the federal district court for the District of Columbia. That court granted BOP summary judgment. The D.C. Circuit affirmed as to the screwdriver records because there was no evidence to refute BOP’s claim the screwdriver was never its property.

As to the surveillance video, BOP claimed that the video was exempt because it “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal property.” The Court found BOP’s affidavit to support that position was lacking, for it lacked specificity, it was conclusionary and it recited statutory language without demonstrating its applicability to the information withheld.

Related legal case

Evans v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons