Correction: This story misspelled the name of the restaurant in which the confrontation occurred. The restaurant is Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe. This story has been corrected.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that the video recording of University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon punching a woman in a Norman restaurant must be released for public viewing.
The state’s highest court issued the ruling Tuesday in a case brought by the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters against the city of Norman, the Norman Police Department and the Cleveland County District Attorney.
It’s unclear, however, if the video will be immediately released. One Norman city official said an appeal for a re-hearing of the ruling remains possible, which could delay release of the video until at least January 2017.
Mixon, a running back who has become one of the top football players in the Big 12, punched Amelia Molitor, a fellow OU student at the time, in July 2014. The confrontation happened in a Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe on Campus Corner.
Four of her facial bones reportedly were broken. The incident occurred about 2:40 a.m. on the day following the football player’s 18th birthday. Mixon later accepted a plea and a deferred sentence.
The video of the incident was shown to some media but was not released to the public, prompting the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters to file a lawsuit contending Norman officials were in violation of Oklahoma’s open-records laws.
In its ruling Tuesday, the State Supreme Court upheld the association’s arguments, and stated that the defendants “must allow Association a copy of the surveillance video...”
At one point, the video had been admitted as evidence in the criminal case against Mixon in Cleveland County District Court. When contacted by the Tulsa World on Tuesday, the Cleveland County Court Clerk said the office did not have a copy of the video.
Rick Knighton, an assistant city attorney in Norman, said the city was considering its options and had 20 days to determine if the city would file an appeal with the Supreme Court to re-hear the case.
“At a minimum, we will take some time to make that decision on whether to file,” Knighton said. “Petitions for re-hearing are due 20 days from the date the opinion is filed. That was today, so we have until Dec. 26 to determine whether we’ll file a petition for a re-hearing or not.
“If we did file, the court will have to consider that. They will deny it or agree to re-hear. That decision would probably come in January.”
Knighton said opinions “in these cases don’t become final until a mandate is issued. If we don’t file the petition for re-hearing, my guess is the mandate will be issued the first or second week of January.”
The Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters argued that the video of Mixon punching Molitor was a public record because it showed facts detailing an arrest, which is information that is included as a public record in Oklahoma’s Open-Records Act. The Supreme Court upheld that argument.
After Cleveland County District Court Judge Thad Balkman ruled in February that the video was not a public record, the broadcasters association appealed.
After the February ruling, David McCullough, an attorney representing the broadcasters association, said the case had “long stopped” being about Mixon, who had entered his plea in October 2014.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the public’s ability to view all of the documents that the decision-making bodies had in front of them when the University of Oklahoma decided to grant the one-year suspension, and when the district attorney decided to mete out the punishment he did for the Alford plea,” McCullough said. “Those things are all done.
“What’s really left is for the public to be able to examine all of the information that was available and make their own decision and determination. Was the University of Oklahoma right? Was the district attorney right? That’s the purpose of the Open Records Act, to have an informed citizenry so we can make the decision on whether or not we agree with what public officials are doing.”
In October 2014, Mixon entered an Alford plea and was issued a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling. He was reinstated to the football team before OU’s 2015 spring semester.
In an Alford plea, a defendant can maintain that he is innocent but allow a court to pronounce him guilty, acknowledging that sufficient evidence exists for a jury to find him guilty.
Now in his second season with the Sooners, Mixon has developed into a dynamic running back and receiver. He is second in the Big 12 with 1,183 rushing yards while splitting time with fellow running back Samaje Perine.
Depite playing only two seasons at OU, Mixon is eligible for the draft. To enter the draft a prospect must be three years removed from high school, which Mixon is when including his suspension year at OU.