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State plans to seek release of sealed Attica documents

ALBANY – New York plans to seek the release of sealed court documents pertaining to the bloody retaking of the Attica Correctional Facility after inmates rioted in 1971, an episode that remains the nation’s bloodiest prison rebellion.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he’ll ask a state court in Wyoming County to unseal previously secret documents containing details about the five days in September 1971 when inmates took control of the maximum-security prison before state troopers stormed the facility to end the takeover.

Schneiderman said the time has come to bring transparency to what he referred to as one of New York State government’s “darkest chapters.”

“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,” Schneiderman said.

The information in question is contained in sealed parts of a 1975 state report that examined New York’s efforts to investigate the riot and its aftermath. Thirty-two inmates and 11 civilian employees died at Attica during the five-day siege, with the majority of the fatalities, including 10 hostages and 29 inmates, occurring when state troopers stormed the prison’s D Yard on Sept. 13, 1971.

Known as the Meyer Report for the former state judge who headed the New York commission that investigated the riot and its aftermath, the 570-page document completed in 1975 was divided into three volumes. The first was partially released, but a state judge ordered the second two to be sealed in 1981 because they contain grand jury testimony.