The city of Gallup is asking a judge to determine whether police photographs of a badly bruised Bishop Donald Pelotte are a matter of public record. The city filed its request in court Aug. 7.
The bishop was admitted to Rehoboth-McKinley Christian Hospital July 23, after sustaining a fall at his home and has subsequently been released. Police took photos of the injured bishop at that time.
The police report states that the bishop was "heavily bruised across the face, along the chest area, both arms, the knuckles, the legs and the feet.”
At least two media outlets have requested access to the police photos.
According to a report by The Associated Press, the city contends the pictures are not part of the public record because they were taken after the police investigation into the incident and because they were shot at a hospital.
Luis Stelzner, an attorney for the diocese, said turning over the photos would be a violation of federal patient privacy rules because Bishop Pelotte was "barely conscious" at the time they were taken and was not able to give his consent, reported the AP.
But Bob Johnson, who heads the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, says Bishop Pelotte is a "figure of great interest to a lot of people," and he believes the records are public. If anyone violated the law, Johnson told the AP, it was the hospital in allowing police to photograph the bishop.
The July 23 incident is not under investigation because of the bishop’s insistence that a fall caused the injuries.