We Came Very Close to Learning About Bill O'Reilly's Relationship to the Nassau County Cops

Yesterday, a Nassau County Supreme Court judge ruled that the Nassau County Police Department had improperly withheld records about its relationship with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, and agreed to release them at 10:30 this morning. About 45 minutes before the documents were due to become available, Nassau County attorneys appealed the decision and obtained a stay of the order.

In August, I reported that O'Reilly—who claims to be more powerful than anybody save the president—had pressured the NCPD into launching an internal affairs investigation into a detective that, O'Reilly believed, had been dating his estranged wife. In the course of reporting the story, I filed a request with the department seeking, among other things, any communications between O'Reilly and former NCPD Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, as well as records of any investigations launched with information supplied by O'Reilly.

The NCPD denied the request in full. I appealed, and the NCPD denied that, too. In October, I filed a petition in Nassau County Supreme Court asking a judge to order NCPD to hand over the documents. Shortly thereafter, the New York Civil Liberties Union agreed to represent me in the matter. In December, in a court filing, the NCPD acknowledged that it had indeed conducted the internal affairs investigation I was asking about. Last month, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge F. Dana Winslow ordered the NCPD to hand over all the documents that were responsive to my request so he could examine them in his chambers.

At a hearing yesterday, after reviewing the documents, Winslow decided that the internal affairs investigation was exempt from the Freedom of Information Law and, with the exception of one page, would stay secret. But he ordered the release of approximately 17 pages of emails and written correspondence between O'Reilly and Mulvey. Much of that, he said, had to do with the construction of what Winslow described in court as an NCPD testing laboratory. The single page from the internal affairs report that Winslow ordered released, he said, was a Civilian Complaint Report signed by Mulvey. In my original story, I reported that Mulvey had directly ordered the investigation, and that the chief of the NCPD internal affairs unit told detectives it was highly sensitive because O'Reilly was considering making a donation to the NCPD Foundation, which is raising funds for the construction of a $48 million police training facility.

Yesterday, Winslow raised the possibility that the NCPD may have failed to hand over all the documents it had. Among the things I asked for in my original request were any records of police visits to addresses associated with the O'Reillys. At the time, the NCPD acknowledged that it had records of visits in its E911 system, and claimed they were exempt. Yesterday, Winslow said that there were no 911 records in the documents NCPD provided to the court. But there were, he suggested, apparent references to 911 calls. It wasn't clear whether those references appeared in the portion of the documents he had cleared for release.

Winslow ordered redacted versions of the correspondence to be made available to me, to the county, and to any interested members of the press at 10:30 this morning. At roughly 9:45 a.m., attorneys for Nassau County filed notice that they would appeal Winslow's decision. Under New York law, the order was automatically stayed. With the help of the NYCLU, I intend to oppose the county's appeal and file a cross-appeal arguing that the internal affairs records, as well as the correspondence, should be released.

[Image via Getty]