Va. Tech student newspaper sues State Police over records

By Justin Anderson | Jun 4, 2009

CHARLESTON -- A student newspaper at Virginia Tech is asking a judge to enforce a Freedom of Information Act request it filed with the West Virginia State Police for records related to a long-missing student.

Educational Medical Company at Virginia Tech -- under which Collegiate Times operates -- filed a lawsuit May 19 against State Police Superintendent Col. T.S. Pack and the agency itself in Kanawha Circuit Court.

According to the filing, the newspaper filed a FOIA in October 2008 while doing a story about Robert Kovack, a graduate architecture student at Virginia Tech who disappeared in September 1998.

According to information maintained by the school, Kovack was heading from Blacksburg, Va., to his home near Fairmont to attend a football game at West Virginia University. Kovack's Geo Tracker was found abandoned on U.S. 19 in Fayetteville.

The newspaper's FOIA asked the State Police to produce records related to the investigation into Kovack's disappearance. But the request was denied in November 2008 because the agency said the investigation still was open.

In January, the newspaper got a Blacksburg lawyer, Keith Finch, to send a letter to the State Police asking again for the records.

In the letter, Finch argued that the newspaper had been told by sources that the case had gone cold and that the public's interest in the matter trumped the state's position to keep the records out of the public eye.

The agency again denied the request.

The newspaper wants Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene Berger to order the agency to turn over the records.

Mark J. Grigoraci is representing the plaintiff in West Virginia.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-938

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