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Judge seeks to hear Newtown 911 recordings before ruling on whether to release them

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NEW BRITAIN, Conn. - A Connecticut judge said Friday that he wants to hear the 911 recordings from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting before ruling whether they can be released to the media.

The state's Freedom of Information Commission ruled in September that the recordings should be provided to The Associated Press, but a prosecutor has asked for a stay while he appeals that order.

New Britain Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott said he wants to hear the calls before ruling on the request for a stay. He set a Nov. 25 hearing on whether the recordings can be sealed so he can access and listen to them.

The AP has sought the recordings in part to examine the police response to the massacre.

Stephen Sedensky III, the state's attorney who has fought to keep the recordings sealed in his role as the lead investigator of the massacre, urged the judge to consider the anguish that releasing the tapes could cause for victims' families. He said the AP and its reporter making the request do not represent the public.

But Victor Perpetua, attorney for the FOI commission who argued with the AP against a stay, countered that it's important to release the recordings because the public has a right to know how police protected them in a time of crisis.

"At a certain point, people ask what is there to hide," Perpetua said. "The longer it is delayed the more questions are raised."

The AP and the FOI commission have opposed the request for a stay, writing in a joint filing that there is no reason for Sedensky to continue withholding the records. If the 911 recordings are released, the AP would review the content and determine what, if any, of it would meet the news co-operative's standards for publication.

The Newtown gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six educators with a semi-automatic rifle. Lanza, who also killed his mother inside their house earlier in the day, committed suicide as police arrived at the school.

As the dispute over the 911 recordings shifts from the FOI commission to the courts, Sedensky has re-asserted his arguments that releasing them could subject witnesses to harassment from conspiracy theorists and violate survivors from the school who deserve special protection as victims of child abuse.

Investigators have not revealed a possible motive for the massacre. Sedensky is preparing a report on the shooting that is expected to be released before the winter.

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