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Forgotten Victims of Attica Cheer New Effort to Release Records

3:57 PM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - More than two generations have passed since a tear gas cloud over Attica State Prison cleared, bringing to an end after five days, the nation's bloodiest prison rebellion.

Since the riot in September of 1971, reparations have been made to the survivors, and the loved ones of the 43 inmates and guards killed both in the riot, and the and hail of state police gunfire during the retaking of the prison. 

But in all that time, most of the state's investigatory findings on what just what happened, and it's efforts to possibly prosecute any parties involved, have been under a court ordered seal....despite the urging of survivor groups like the Forgotten Victims of Attica to make those records public.

Now, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will ask a judge for permission to unseal the records, which are currently in the possession of his office.

"There is a burning need for information and it moves people to a new place, and that new place is healthier. It's a place of healing," said Jonathan E. Gradess, a lawyer who has represented the Forgotten Victims of Attica along with Gary A. Horton.

Schneiderman's spokesperson said the AG was unavailable to speak with Two On Your Side on Monday, but sent along the following statement, attributable to the Attorney General.

"The time has come to bring transparency to one of New York State government's darkest chapters: the Attica prison riot, the forceful retaking of the prison on September 13, 1971, and subsequent government investigations and responses. I have, therefore, decided to seek a court order unsealing volumes 2 and 3 of the "Meyer Report," which examined the State's prior efforts to investigate and prosecute parties involved in the events at Attica, including the forceful retaking of the prison on September 13, 1971.
We are in the process of evaluating what mode, timing and mechanics of release will best balance a number of imperatives: the public's right to a full airing of available, relevant information; our obligation to treat all subjects of the report fairly and to put its findings in their proper context when released; and preservation of the integrity of grand jury proceedings, which is so critical to the effectiveness of law enforcement and public protection."

Those who have long sought the release of the sealed records, are also pleased that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has committed his support to making them public.

"Their working together is something that makes us very excited," Gradess told WGRZ-TV.

Michael Smith was a corrections officer who was taken hostage at Attica, and then shot and wounded by state police when they stormed the prison to put down the rebellion.

"This is especially important for the families of those involved...on both side...for the past 40 years there's been a lot of unanswered questions," he said.

Deanne Quinn Miller was only five when her father, Corrections Officer William Quinn, was killed during the rebellion.

"I also think it's important historically so that people can study the riot and find out what went wrong so that this is never repeated again in the history of New York state," she said.

"Even this may never bring closure in the sense in which that word implies," said Gradess "But this is a step in a long process to reach final healing, and I guess I'd have to say that's why we're excited."

Click on the video player to watch our story (including film footage of the Attica Prison Riot) from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Scott May. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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