Coach K’s grandson asks NC Supreme Court to steer clear of case involving his DWI stop

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  • Michael Savarino, grandson of former Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, is asking the N.C. Supreme Court to reject a case linked to a 2021 traffic stop.
  • The stop of Savarino and fellow Duke player Paolo Banchero led to Savarino's eventual guilty plea to driving while impaired.
  • The N.C. Court of Appeals rejected a media coalition's attempt to access law enforcement recordings of the traffic stop.

Former Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s grandson is urging the N.C. Supreme Court to reject a case involving media access to law enforcement recordings. The recordings are tied to a traffic stop of two Duke basketball players that led to drunk-driving charges.

Michael Savarino filed paperwork Monday with the state’s highest court. His lawyers ask justices to leave a state Court of Appeals ruling intact.

“The decision below neither poses questions of major significance to the jurisprudence of the state, nor does it raise an issue of significant public interest,” attorney Cyrus Griswold wrote.

Savarino is Coach K’s grandson. He was a Duke player in November 2021 when he and Duke star Paolo Banchero faced a traffic stop in Orange County. Authorities charged Savarino with driving while impaired. Banchero faced charges of aiding and abetting DWI.

Savarino pleaded guilty to DWI in July 2022. Authorities dismissed the charges against Banchero the following day.

A group of media outlets — including the News and Observer, WRAL, WTVD, and WNCN — filed paperwork in December 2021, seeking the “release of all body cam footage, dashboard camera recordings, cell phone recordings, or any other recordings related to this incident,” according to an Appeals Court opinion in the case.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour issued a January 2022 order approving release of the recordings. But Savarino’s attorney appealed.

A unanimous Appeals Court panel ruled against the media outlets in April. Chief Judge Donna Stroud cited as precedent the court’s two-month-old ruling in an Elizabeth City case. That dispute stemmed from media outlets’ attempts to secure video recordings related to the April 2021 officer-involved shooting death of Andrew Brown.

In both cases, media outlets used a form developed by the state Administrative Office of the Courts to seek access to recordings. Appellate judges ruled that the media outlets should have filed civil suits instead.

A media coalition petitioned the state Supreme Court in May to take both cases. Media lawyers argued that the state’s highest court could “untangle the jurisprudential morass” created by lower court decisions in the two cases.

“[T]he AOC’s form-driven process for seeking release pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat.§ 132-1.4A(g) has been used hundreds of times since 2016,” a media coalition legal brief noted. “[C]onsequently, the Court of Appeals’ ruling has perpetuated significant confusion and uncertainty for law enforcement, the courts, and the public (including the members of the Media Coalition).”

“The Media Coalition respectfully requests that this Honorable Court resolve the uncertainty and confusion resulting from the Court of Appeals’ decisions by granting this Petition for Discretionary Review and exercising its general supervisory authority to promote the expeditious administration of justice regarding the release of law enforcement recordings.”

Savarino’s court filing rejects media arguments. “N.C. Gen. Stat. S 132-1.4A(b) provides that recordings are neither ‘public records’ nor ‘personnel records.’ The decision by the Court of Appeals in no way alters, expands, or otherwise changes the definition of ‘custodial law enforcement recordings’ that have been determined to be neither ‘public records’ nor ‘personnel records’ under N.C. Gen. Stat. {132-1.4A(b),” Griswold wrote.

“The decision by the Court of Appeals simply requires a member of the public who is not depicted in such a recording, and who is also seeking release of such a recording, to follow the procedure for release laid out in clear, unambiguous language by N.C. Gen. Stat. S 132-1..4A(g),” he added.

The media coalition “is not contending that the Court of Appeals employed incorrect legal principles in reaching its decision.” Instead the coalition “takes issue with the Court’s application of settled legal principles of statutory construction,” Griswold wrote.

There is no deadline for the state Supreme Court to decide whether to take the case.