Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

City of Norman reaches settlement with Oklahoma broadcast group over Joe Mixon tape

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NORMAN, Okla. – The City of Norman has reached a settlement with the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters over the release of surveillance video of OU running back Joe Mixon punching a woman in the face.

It’s been nearly four years since OU running back Joe Mixon was suspended for punching Amelia Molitor in a restaurant on Campus Corner.

Joe Mixon

Molitor suffered several broken bones in her face, and Mixon entered an Alford plea to the assault charges.

He was also suspended from the football team for one season.

Surveillance videos at the restaurant captured the whole event on camera.

It shows Amelia Molitor shoving and hitting Mixon, and Mixon responding by punching her in the face and then leaving the scene.

Initially, the City of Norman, the Norman Police Department and the district attorney all refused to release the video.

However, later, a small group of media members were allowed to view the video.

But, authorities in Norman would not release the video to the public.

The Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters sued the City of Norman and the Cleveland County District Attorney’s office to get a copy of that tape, saying it should be allowed under Oklahoma’s Open Records Law.

On Dec. 6, 2016, the Supreme Court agreed and said “The Defendants must allow Association a copy of the surveillance video.”

At issue, was the definition of arrest.

The City of Norman said a warrant was never actually issued for Mixon’s arrest and Mixon voluntarily appeared in court to answer to the charge, making it an exception from the part of the Open Records Act that requires law enforcement agencies “to make available for public inspection facts concerning an arrest.”

“In this case, a warrant was never issued. And, a lot of those cases where people show up just to appear to answer for the charge, sometimes a warrant is issued, sometimes it isn’t,” said Norman Assistant City Attorney, Rick Knighton. “Joe Mixon was not treated any differently than all of the people that appear voluntarily to enter those pleas on a daily basis.”

“A judge ordered him to be processed. A judge ordered bail to be set. Our position was all that constitutes an arrest,” said David McCullough, attorney for the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters.

The Supreme Court agreed, saying in their decision “Mixon was arrested, and the video is a record of the facts leading up to the arrest.”

So, the law “requires the video be made available to the public.”

“Any time you have access to a record under the open record act, it’s a win for transparency,” McCullough said.

OAB’s attorney David McCullough said the City of Norman's fight to keep the video from the public was a waste of time and money.

"The Supreme Court two years later affirmed that we were correct at the beginning it was a public record, it was a lot of fight about nothing," McCullough said.

Even though video of the incident was released by Mixon’s attorneys, OAB did not give up on seeing the City of Norman's copy.

"We don't know if it's the same video or not till we compare them," McCullough said. "There may be some nuances. There may be some differences. Having said that, I doubt that there are, but there could be.”

McCullough adds the purpose of the legal battle is for transparency, open government and the public’s right to know what took place.

Earlier this month, the City of Norman reached a $60,000 settlement agreement with OAB over the release of the footage.

The Norman City Council voted to approve the settlement earlier this week, the OU Daily reports.

The settlement also states the future publication or availability for publication of the surveillance video should not be prohibited or restrained.

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