MISSOULA — Author Jon Krakauer is asking the Montana University System to release records detailing its actions after the University of Montana and its disciplinary committee found Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson guilty of rape and expelled him from school in 2012.
Johnson was later found not guilty of the rape in Missoula District Court.
Krakauer, author of “Into Thin Air” and “Under the Banner of Heaven,” among other books, filed the petition in Lewis and Clark County District Court on Feb. 12. The summons gives the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education until March 26 to respond.
“He made a request for documents related to what the commissioner’s office did following the Johnson disciplinary action at UM,” said Krakauer attorney Mike Meloy. “It’s your garden variety right-to-know complaint.”
According to the summons, Krakauer petitioned the commissioner’s office asking to “inspect or obtain” copies of records detailing how the office handled the UM disciplinary committee’s ruling that found Johnson guilty of rape.
Johnson, the starting quarterback for the UM football team, was expelled from school as a result of the committee’s findings. The next year, he was found not guilty of the charge in Missoula District Court.
Krakauer argues that the commissioner’s office is violating his constitutional rights by withholding the records in question. His petition argues that they should be made public under the state’s Open Records Act, along with Article II of the Montana Constitution.
Jessica Brubaker, associate legal counsel for the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, said the office will not confirm that such records even exist.
“We’re not confirming the records he’s asking for exist or don’t exist,” she said. “That in itself is confidential, and we don’t have permission in this case.”
Brubaker said Krakauer initially asked the commissioner’s office for records related to Johnson, specifically those in which he appealed the findings of the UM disciplinary committee.
She said the office is prohibited from disclosing student records without student consent under both state and federal law, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
“There are laws that provide that protection,” Brubaker said. “Protecting student privacy interests is of the utmost importance to us.”