A lawyer for Rene Carter, a former Capital High School teacher accused of sexual intercourse without consent, is asking a Helena court not to release files related to the investigation of her case.
Charging documents accuse Carter of repeatedly having sexual intercourse with a minor between February and June of 2015. Helena Public Schools Superintendent Jack Copps has confirmed the victim was a student.
Carter's trial has been scheduled for June 4.
After the Independent Record filed a request for the police report related to the charge, Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher filed a request asking a judge to decide whether the information is public and should be released.
Carter’s attorney, Palmer Hoovestal, asked the court to rule that Carter's “rights of individual privacy and to a fair trial by an impartial jury free from outside influences clearly exceed the merits of public disclosure.”
In addition to Carter's attorney, lawyers for Helena Public Schools, the victim and his family, and the Independent Record have also responded to the court action filed by the county attorney.
Dave Dalthorp, an attorney for Helena Public Schools, filed a response that says school district officials investigated surveillance video of Carter and the student but didn’t see anything inappropriate. They referred the matter to the police in June 2015, Dalthorp said.
The school district's response says the charges against Carter are not based on her status as a school employee or the victim’s status as a student. The response also says Dalthorm expects the investigation file to show the student was over the age of consent during the time frame the charges are based.
In Montana, minors younger than 16 cannot legally consent to sexual activity. Although charging documents describe the victim as a “minor who was legally incapable of giving his consent,” they do not specifically say whether the victim could not consent because of his age or as a result of other factors.
The school district's complaint also asks the court to weight the public's right to know against Carter's right of privacy “taking into account the charges are not based upon Ms. Carter’s status as a school employee or the young man’s status as a student.” It asks that if the information is released, the school district receive a copy.
The response filed by Timothy McKeon and Meghan Doud on behalf of the victim and his family asks for any identifying information to be redacted if any information is released.
The response filed by Martha Sheehy, a lawyer for the Independent Record, agrees to redacting information that would identify the victim. It also asks for an opportunity to be heard by briefs or oral argument “regarding the weighing of interests which this Court must conduct to determine the disclosure of these documents.”
The Independent Record is also asking the court to award attorney fees and costs for enforcing the public’s right to know.