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Judge considers releasing records in UNC football investigation

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TWC News: Judge considers releasing records in UNC football investigation
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RALEIGH -- A judge heard arguments from attorneys surrounding public records request for all documents involved in UNC Chapel Hill's investigation into its football program, which was promoted by the NCAA's allegations of academic misconduct and improper benefits.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning said it could be weeks before he makes a ruling in the public records hearing between nine media outlets, including News 14 Carolina, and UNC and former football coach Butch Davis.

During the two hour debate, attorneys argued over whether Davis' cell phone records should be revealed under the public records law. Attorneys for the media outlets say Davis is a state employee and the calls he made could reveal crucial information surrounding the NCAA's findings of misconduct on the football team.

"The fact is that he has acknowledged that he did use the phone for university-related business," Hugh Stevens, an attorney for the media outlets, told the judge.

Davis' attorney Jon Sasser said the coach does not want his personal contacts numbers to get into the public's hands.

"He has absolutely nothing to hide, but what he wants to do is protect the privacy of his friends and his family," saidd Sasser, who believes the public records law should not apply to coaches at all. "It's not a level playing field when public universities coaches have to give up their communications and private universities coaches do not."

The judge awknowledged there's certain information on Davis' cell records that should stay private.

"The public is not entitled to know that he called Condoleezza Rice," said Manning.

The final decision could set a precedent. The judge said other public figures could get the wrong idea if Davis' cell phone is not released.

"People are going to start using not their state-owned cell phones but their personal cell phones," Manning said. "Assuming that he is subject to the public records law, how do you protect the governor, the secretary of state once that door is opened?"

Manning must also decide whether documents and recorded interviews surrounding impermissible benefits football players received should be revealed without redactions. Attorneys for UNC claims that'd violate FERPA, the Family Educational Records Privacy Act. Attorneys for the media outlets contend they're not asking for academic information.

Manning does not expect to make a decision before the end of the month. Even after his ruling, the judge believes the debates will likely head to the state's Court of Appeals.

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