RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — University of Virginia officials said Friday they were further delaying the public release of the findings of an investigation into the events surrounding a 2022 campus shooting that killed three student-athletes and wounded two other students.
Citing concern about the impact the findings could have on the suspect’s pending trial, UVA said in a news release that it would not make a “redacted” version of the final report public until “after the criminal proceedings.”
“Making the report public at this time, or even releasing a summary of their findings and recommendations, could have an impact on the criminal trial of the accused, either by disrupting the case being prepared by the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, or by interfering with the defendant’s right to a fair trial before an impartial jury,” UVA President Jim Ryan said in a statement.
The announcement drew criticism from both a leading open government advocate and a former U.S. attorney.
Ryan said the university had consulted with Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley in reaching the decision.
Hingeley said in a statement released by the school that he had not seen the report but was appreciative of “the University’s efforts to avoid taking any action that could complicate the prosecution of the accused, Christopher Jones, or impair his right to a fair and impartial trial.”
UVA announced about a month ago that the investigation was done and that it would be discussed with UVA’s Board of Visitors and those most affected by the shooting before being released publicly, possibly by early November.
Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said by email Friday that the university’s decision to conceal information that’s in the public interest was disappointing.
“This is not a law enforcement record and it’s not up to the university to decide what will or will not prejudice a criminal defendant’s trial. That decision is entirely up to a judge when weighing things like a change of venue, juror selection, or the entry of evidence,” Rhyne wrote.
John Fishwick Jr., a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia who is now in private practice, said UVA should reverse course and immediately release the investigation. He said he thought both the local prosecutor and Jones’ legal team would want access to the report, adding that UVA’s “higher obligation” is to the public.
“The victims’ families and the public have a right to know now what happened and there should not be a delay in releasing the investigation until after Mr. Jones’ criminal trial,” he said.
Jones was a UVA student and former member of the school’s football team when authorities say he fatally shot three members of the team as they and others returned by charter bus to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington in November 2022. Two other students were injured, one of them also a football player.
The violence that erupted near a parking garage set off a 12-hour lockdown of the campus until the suspect was captured.
Jones is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated malicious wounding and firearms-related counts, according to court records, which show his next court hearing is in February.
Liz Murtagh, a public defender who has been representing Jones, did not immediately respond to an emailed inquiry Friday evening.
Within days of the shooting, university leaders asked for an outside review to investigate UVA’s safety policies and procedures, its response to the violence and its prior efforts to assess the potential threat of Jones. School officials acknowledged he previously was on the radar of the university’s threat-assessment team.
Attorney General Jason Miyares granted the request for the probe, appointing outside counsel to conduct a review.
Miyares’ office has also refused to release the report.