Avonte Oquendo's Mother Files Court Action for Access to Police Records
MANHATTAN — The mother of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teenager whose remains were discovered on a beach in Queens last week, filed a court action against the NYPD Wednesday demanding video and internal records relating to her son's disappearance.
Avonte's mother, Vanessa Fontaine, wants the police department to turn over documents concerning what happened at the Riverview School in Long Island City on Oct. 4, the day Avonte walked out of the school building at 1-50 51st Ave., according to an order to show cause filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
"The only records requested are those providing a context for understanding how a special needs child was permitted to leave his school by himself during the middle of the school day," Fontaine's lawyer, David Perecman, wrote in court papers.
Perecman had filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the NYPD on Fontaine's behalf in October, seeking access to school safety and police incident reports, statements taken by police, surveillance footage and the names of the safety agents on duty the day of Avonte's disappearance, according to court documents.
The FOIL was first denied on the grounds that release of the requested documents would interfere with police investigations or judicial proceedings, according to court papers.
Perecman appealed the denial, and was once again rejected, this time on the additional basis that it would warrant an invasion of privacy, "endanger the life or safety" of a person, reveal confidential information and would reveal non-routine criminal investigative techniques or procedures, according to the documents.
The lawyer disputed these reasons.
"Evidence of how he was permitted to leave the school is simply not relevant to any criminal or missing person investigation, since release of the sought-after information has no relevance to the question of what happened to Avonte after he left the school," Perecman wrote in the court papers.
"No privacy concern can exist here, since the only privacy issue that theoretically could exist concerns Petitioner’s privacy, which has been waived by making this application and in any event has no basis here due to the intense media attention already given to this matter," he continued.
Fontaine is asking the court to order the NYPD to comply with the FOIL request, or to turn over the relevant documents to the court for review to determine if any of the records are exempt. Perecman said the NYPD is required to show cause on Feb. 5 of why the FOIL request should not be answered.
A spokesperson for the city's Law Department said it will conduct a thorough review of the case once it's received.
"This involves a terrible tragedy, and the city's thoughts are with Avonte's family," the spokesperson said.