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How We Handled Documents Related to Zach Smith's Past

Jason Priestas's picture
August 6, 2018 at 6:15am

Recently, some of you have questioned how we handled documents related to two incidents in Zach Smith's past: one from 2009 in Gainesville, Florida, and the other from 2015 in Powell.

Both of these incidents have been heavily covered here and by other outlets, so I'll spare you guys a rehash of the details for each and instead, explain our reasons for not publishing reports of these two incidents.

In early November 2015, we were tipped off about an incident in Powell, Ohio involving Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith. We filed a public records request to the Powell Police department and on November 6, 2015, they released a redacted report from October 26, 2015 outlining an incident that took place at Courtney Carano Smith's apartment the previous day.

We ran into two problems as we looked for details related to this incident: Zach Smith's name and information are completely redacted in the report, and the city of Powell denied our request for additional records, citing R.C. 149.43 (uncharged suspect).

Powell Public Records Response – Oct 2015

We did receive an incident report, but again, the suspect is redacted completely.

The two offenses listed on the report are disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing, both misdemeanors. That report included the narrative we've all become familiar with: “The victim reports that a domestic incident happened last night at her home and that she has been a victim of sustained physical abuse by the subject.”

Even though Zach's name and information is nowhere to be found on the report, you could probably make an assumption that it was him and we thought he may be the suspect redacted from that report. However, we were denied access to anything that could definitively place Zach Smith as the suspect in the report.

Please understand that Zach Smith has still never been charged from that incident and Powell is only now confirming that he is the suspect redacted in the report. What changed between them denying our request for additional records or even confirming he was the suspect in 2015 to now? That's a question for Powell.

We made a decision to not report on that 2009 incident primarily because charges were dropped almost immediately, and Zach Smith had been hired and presumably passed background checks at Marshall, Temple and Ohio State by the time we learned of the incident. Did we want to be responsible for publicly airing their dirty laundry like that?

Was it the right decision? We felt comfortable with it until the other incidents made the news this summer. Once we discovered Zach Smith was in court for criminal trespass, we immediately requested additional records from Gainesville and reported on what we found.

In hindsight, you could argue that we should have dug more and earlier into the 2009 incident. We're humans. We try to do what we think is right, but we know we make our share of mistakes.

On a final note, whatever constrained us or guided our decisions had nothing at all to do with protecting “access” as we've seen some people mention. We get to go to media availability events, games, and that's pretty much it. Sure, if you're ESPN, you can get the star quarterback for a sit down prior to a game, but we never will. As far as losing access, as a general rule, we've never worried about Ohio State taking away credentials for reporting news factually, however bad it is and however much they don't like it. They don't do things like that.

This is a forum post from a site member. It does not represent the views of Eleven Warriors unless otherwise noted.

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