UI asks court opinion on release of Bustamante records

Aug 30, 2011

The University of Idaho is asking the state district court if the personal records of murder suspect Ernesto Bustmante, a former UI faculty member, can be released.

Bustamante was the suspect in the murder last week of UI graduate student Katy Benoit. His body was found in a local hotel room the day after the murder, and police believe he committed suicide.

Bustamante taught at the UI for four years prior to his resignation three days before the murder. Media organizations and the public have clamored for the UI to release his personal records, but the university says its hands are tied by state statute.

The Idaho Public Records Law prevents public agencies from releasing most personal records for current and former employees. The question at hand is whether the law still applies, given Bustamante’s death.

“My hope is that the court will provide a ruling that removes the legal constraints that currently keep us from releasing relevant personal documents," UI President Duane Nellis told reporters.

The UI is seeking a judgment from the district court allowing it to, in Nellis’ words, release everything that it can as soon as it can. Nellis says he’s committed to full disclosure but he is bound, he says, by the law.