Live 5 News sues Charleston Co. sheriff over release of jailhouse calls

Published: Jun. 22, 2023 at 2:03 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2023 at 5:43 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Live 5 News filed a lawsuit Thursday over the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office’s refusal to release jail video calls made by a suspect in a deadly DUI crash that killed a newlywed in April.

Jamie Komoroski, 25, is charged with three counts of felony DUI causing bodily injury or death and reckless homicide after the April 28 crash. The sheriff’s office released audio and video from calls made by Komoroski to the Post and Courier after that outlet requested the recordings through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The sheriff’s office did provide logs of calls made by Komoroski since she has been in jail after a similar Live 5 News FOIA request.

But weeks after the sheriff’s office provided the recordings to the newspaper, it denied a request from Live 5 News for the same material, stating the denial was made because of “counsel and other interested parties [raising] a concern that similar record releases would materially interfere with the administration of justice.”

The suit, filed by Live 5 WCSC’s parent company, Gray Television LLC, names Kristin Graziano in her official capacity as sheriff of Charleston County. The lawsuit states that the sheriff’s office’s legal counsel said on June 9 that the prior release of the requested information was “erroneous” and that the “erroneous prior release...has been mitigated by a clawback request.”

The Post and Courier’s reporting of the contents of the videos remains on its website.

The lawsuit alleges the sheriff’s office’s refusal to provide the audio recordings violates the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. It seeks a declaratory judgment that requires Graziano to provide the requested information as well as reasonable attorney fees and other legal costs.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office provided the following statement:

We believe the law is on our side, and we look forward to defending our position in court.

Call records show she attempted to make 271 calls during her first 23 days in jail, from April 29 to May 21. Of those calls, only 128 were completed. Call logs show the calls averaged about 10 minutes in length.

The sheriff’s office also sent their tablet policy for inmates. Inmates are issued tablets at dress out, and there are time limits and restrictions on what time of day when the tablets can be used.

Authorities say Komoroski rear-ended a golf cart with four occupants around 10 p.m. in the 1200 block of E. Ashley Ave. One passenger of the golf cart died in the crash. The victim was later identified as Samantha Miller, who had just gotten married hours earlier in the evening.

Three other occupants of the golf cart were seriously hurt, including the groom, Aric Hutchinson. The other two the victims were taking the newlywed couple back to their rental home when they were struck, a report states.

At the time of the crash, Komoroski was driving 65 mph, according to police.

A blood toxicology report shows that Komoroski’s blood alcohol level was 0.261 the night of the crash. That is more than three times the legal limit in South Carolina.

Komoroski remains in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center.