Was it Legal for Meyer to Delete Texts?

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Open records experts say any attempt by Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer to eliminate older text messages on his phone would be illegal.

A university investigation says Meyer discussed ways to change the settings on his phone to eliminate messages older than a year as a story broke Aug. 1 that centered on messages he may have received about domestic violence allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith.

The latest university records retention policy doesn't single out text messages.

As murky as the policy seems, Fred Gittes, a veteran open records lawyer in Columbus, said any elimination of texts on Meyer's university-issued phone related to his coaching responsibility would break Ohio's open records law.

Open records advocate Dennis Hetzel questioned why investigators didn't do more to track down any older messages.

"What happened to these text messages seems like a pretty big thing to ignore or not pay a lot of attention to," said Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio News Media Association.

Tom Mars, an attorney who pried phone records out of the University of Mississippi in a lawsuit on behalf of former Rebels coach Houston Nutt in 2017, questioned why Ohio State couldn't determine if Meyer deleted text messages from his university phone.

"If you can get possession of the phone, with the right software, the right forensic expert, you can retrieve everything the user thought was deleted," Mars said.

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August 27, 2018


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