John Besche

A little more than a year after Sarah Braasch faced national backlash for calling campus police on a black student sleeping in her common room, the Yale graduate student filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Yale Police Department officers’ body camera footage of her on that night.

In May 2018, Braasch — a graduate student who was then the sole resident of the 12th floor of the Hall of Graduate Studies — called the YPD’s non-emergency line after spotting a stranger in the common room adjacent to her dorm. Braasch’s FOIA request prompted a hearing on Monday before the state of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission in Hartford. Braasch, YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins and their respective legal representatives spoke before FOI Commission counsel Danielle McGee. By July 2020, the counsel and her committee will decide whether the YPD must release the footage to Braasch. If Braasch receives the footage, she said that she will release it to the public to show her side of what happened.

“My life has been completely destroyed, and I’ve been vilified on a global scale,” Braasch said in an interview with the News. “I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to get a job again, especially not in the careers that I’ve worked my entire life for. I want the public to see that Yale lied about me to cover up their wrongdoing, and that they destroyed an innocent person.”

The YPD initially refused her request, which she filed over the summer, to release the footage. At Monday’s hearing, the YPD maintained that the footage contains uncorroborated allegations, exempting them from releasing it to Braasch.

Braasch claimed on her YouTube channel that this video will exonerate her and “[expose] Yale’s grossly illegal misconduct” against her. On her YouTube channel, Braasch argued that the YPD’s rationale for not providing the footage would exempt every police department in the country from releasing body camera records.

During the hearing, Braasch’s attorney, Jay Wolman, explained the context of Braasch’s FOIA request. Braasch and Wolman reiterated that the YPD had told her that she could call the YPD at any time in which she needed assistance. Braasch said the YPD told her she could call on them after she reported harassment she experienced throughout the spring semester of 2018. The YPD’s attorney Aaron Bayer said that this is a guarantee provided to all students. FOI Commission counsel McGee questioned whether Braasch’s reasoning for the call was relevant to her FOIA request.

“No claim of trespass or harassment was corroborated,” Higgins said during his cross-examination.

Higgins added that the uncorroborated claims in the footage uphold their exemption to releasing the footage under FOIA.

Braasch’s attorney attempted to provide the FOI Commission with letters from Graduate School Associate Dean Richard Sleight, but McGee ruled against admitting emails between Braasch and administrators to the record. After debate over what communications would be admitted, the hearing proceeded to cross-examination of Braasch and Higgins as witnesses.

“I’m looking forward to sunshine being shed on the record, and that my client can share her side of the story,” Wolman said.

Braasch tweeted after the hearing that she “will never stop fighting for justice for everyone who has been falsely accused.”

The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission was created in 1975.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu

  • Scientific Coder

    YPD’s dragging their feet to shed the light on what really happened is disingenuous. I hope the footage is released so that we can finally know who to believe.