Lawyer loses bid to have police recordings released in Kuiper case

Updates on the Kuiper hearing

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - An attorney representing a man injured in an alcohol-involved crash involving former Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper lost a bid to get his hands on five police telephone conversations made the night of the crash.

The attorney for Daniel Empson, who is suing Kuiper for injuries suffered in the Nov. 19 crash, wants to use the conversations in a personal injury lawsuit filed in January.

“Mr. Empson is the individual who was struck by Mr. Kuiper’s vehicle. He has every right to pursue his action,’’ attorney Brian Molde argued before Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Leiber on Friday, April 7. “This information is typical of what we ask courts to disclose all the time.’’

Related: Former assistant prosecutor to stand trial for alcohol-involved injury accident
Related: Police lieutenant involved in Kuiper case sues City of Grand Rapids

Standing in his way were attorneys for the city of Grand Rapids and the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office. Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting handled the criminal investigation involving Kuiper and how the probe was handled by Grand Rapids police.

“Those tapes that he seeks were tapes of conversations between officers after the accident, outside of the crime scene and after the fact,’’ said attorney Amber Beebe, who is representing Kalamazoo County.  “To open up a can of worms like that would probably be disruptive to future investigations and it would be unprecedented.’’

Beebe said the five recordings are subject to a “hold order’’ in federal court “because there are some legal questions that need to be answered before they can be released.’’

Leiber ruled the recordings should not be released at this point.

In arguing for their release, Molde said the five recordings could contain information that would be helpful in the civil case.

“They could contain statements that were made by Mr. Kuiper to the officers on the scene,’’ Molde said. “They could contain statements by the officers regarding the officers’ impressions of Mr. Kuiper’s behavior. They could contain statements made by the officers that are not contained in the police report. They could contain statements made by witnesses to the accident that are not contained in the police report.’’

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