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Utah Police Got Paid For Gabby Petito Bodycam Footage -- Why That’s NOT OK!

Utah Police Got Paid For Gabby Petito Bodycam Footage -- Why That’s NOT OK!

It appears the Moab Police Department found themselves in trouble for selling the body camera footage captured of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie during their cross-country road trip — and for an insane price.

In the video, Moab police officers pulled the couple over after responding to a call about a domestic violence dispute in which Laundrie slapped and hit Gabby. The authorities talked to the couple about the fight separately before urging them to separate for the night to cool down. The footage was shot on August 12 — nearly a month before she was reported missing and later found dead — has continued to make headlines since the early weeks into the investigation of the 22-year-old vlogger’s disappearance.

But apparently, something shady was going on behind the scenes when the video was released…

Related: Gabby Petito’s Dad Says Brian’s Notebook Won’t Bring Closure — Wants To Focus On THIS Instead

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the police department sold the bodycam footage for $98 to 30 different groups, primarily media outlets that requested it, meaning they made nearly $3,000 in total. Crazy! The money collected for the clip reportedly amounted to about three times what the city planned on collecting for this fiscal year in record fee revenue. The Moab Police Department initially expected to only receive just $1,000 in 2021 and the same in 2020.

So why does this matter? Well, certain states generally have rules dictating how much money an office can charge for fulfilling public records requests if they choose to do so. And in Utah, the law states that government agencies “may charge a reasonable fee to cover the governmental entity’s actual costs of providing a record.” It also encourages entities to release the public record at no cost to the media who are using it for news stories. So this means that the police department pretty much violated the law!

A spokesperson for the city Lisa Church said that while they could have charged $98 for first providing the video, they were not allowed to keep repeating the same charge. She explained:

“Even if one person were charged a fee once that document is created, everybody else should not have been charged.”

While Church wouldn’t say the fees were a mistake, she did admit that it was outside of the city’s usual practice as they generally try to fulfill media requests for free. She also pointed out that a second bodycam video was released to the public of the same incident at no charge. Still doesn’t make this situation right…

Now, Moab has to refund the nearly $3,000 in fees collected from the media organizations. Church shared:

“It’s going to be made right. The point of GRAMA requests is it is public information the public is entitled to, and certainly, media organizations are entitled to it. We’ll get it figured out and get the refunds processed.”

It is certainly hard to imagine that the video cost almost $100 — something attorney Jeff Hunt agreed seemed “unusual and excessive” since it was already reviewed and just needed to be emailed out. He told The Salt Lake Tribune:

“At a time when news organizations are under immense cost pressure, and we have publications, newspapers, folding all around the country and in Utah, it’s important to be mindful of those costs because you can’t get information and disseminate to the public if the cost is prohibitive.”

This certainly some shady s**t! What are your thoughts on the matter, Perezcious readers? Let us know in the comments (below).

[Image via Fox 13 Tampa Bay/YouTube]

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Oct 29, 2021 15:43pm PDT