Sexual Assault Investigation Sparks Debate Over Transparency And Policing

Oct 27, 2015

Last week, Burlington police said a woman had been sexually assaulted on Oct. 16 in a bathroom of the Edward J. Costello Courthouse.

Up until that announcement, the police had decided to keep quiet about the case and did not release the name of the suspect.

In an email sent to local media, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said his goal was to protect the identity of the victim.

“The victim in the recent Costello Courthouse sexual assault was an associate of her alleged rapist,” del Pozo wrote. “Publicizing his name and the details of the case has undoubtedly compromised her identity in many circles in our small city.”

The name of the suspect, Robert Rosario, was eventually uncovered in public court documents and published by The Burlington Free Press.

Robert Rosario is charged with felony sexual assault and is still at large.

In an interview with VPR, del Pozo said that in the future more consideration would be given to asking for a limit on publicly available information during sensitive investigations.

“I don't begrudge the press in any way for exercising their right to obtain information under the Freedom of Information laws we have here,” said del Pozo. “But we do need to make sure that we also exercise our judgment in withholding some of that information in the public interest as well. And to be clear, the law provides for some of that.”

Robert Hemley, a media attorney who has represented multiple news outlets in Vermont, joined us to discuss what's public information and what's not.

Disclosure: VPR is a former client of Robert Hemley’s.