MILWAUKEE — A judge has ordered the City of Milwaukee to release police officer body camera and dashboard camera footage in the death of Joel Acevedo allegedly by former Milwaukee police officer Michael Mattioli last year.
Mattioli was charged with 1st-degree reckless homicide and several months later Mattioli resigned from the Milwaukee Police Department. Mattioli was off-duty on the day he is accused in the death of Acevedo in Mattioli's home.
Since then Acevedo's family and legal team have called for the release of records of the investigation into the death. Last November, the Milwaukee Police Department decided to release some public records, including the 911 phone call between Mattioli and dispatchers. Mattioli's legal team has fought that decision, arguing the records may jeopardize a fair trial.
Acevedo's family continued to pursue the remaining public records - including police body camera and squad car dashboard camera footage, arguing the public has a right to know in a case involving a now-former police officer.
On Wednesday, a Milwaukee County Court judge denied Mattioli's request to block the release of that second wave of public records. But the judge also ruled that the records must be released in a manner so that the disclosure will not interfere with Mattioli's criminal trial.
"The Court is primarily concerned with the potentially damaging effect publication of Mr. Mattioli's image and statements would have on his ability to get a fair trial if the records were released," according to the written order released Wednesday.
The judge specified that while the police videos should be released, Mattioli's image in the videos should be blocked or blurred out. That also applies to sound in the video of Mattioli speaking, according to the judge's ruling.
The judge concludes that public interest in the case, and by extension these public records, "outweighs any public harm from the release of these statements. If the protections outlined... are taken in releasing the requested footage, Mr. Mattioli will be able to have a fair trial and the public will be able to engage in the appropriate close scrutiny of police officers that the law expects."
Mattioli is set to be back in court on June 4. He pleaded not guilty to the reckless homicide charge.
Mattioli's legal team has requested his trial take place outside Milwaukee County. Mattioli's attorneys say moving the trial outside the county will give them a better chance for an impartial jury. The family of Joel Acevedo says there can be a fair trial in Milwaukee.
“This is certainly a step forward in achieving justice for Joel Acevedo. Bodycam footage ensures a level of law enforcement accountability, but only when made available to the public," said attorney Ben Crump in a statement.
"We are encouraged by this decision by the court, and hope that the video release is expeditious. Just as the family of Andrew Brown Jr. deserves answers now, so do Joel’s family and the Milwaukee community," said Crump.
“We are in the process of reviewing Judge Pocan’s decision and will consider all options going forward as we continue to work to protect Mr. Mattioli’s constitutional right to a fair trial," said Mattioli’s attorneys, Craig S. Powell and Michael F. Hart, in a statement.