Suit: DA’s office shared gruesome images

Estate of Utica murder victim seeks punitive damages, equitable relief, court documents show

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UTICA —The family of murder victim Bianca Devins has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office claiming that their attorneys shared the gruesome footage of Devins’ death with several national media outlets.

The lawsuit also names Oneida County and District Attorney Scott D. McNamara. The suit was filed in the Northern District of New York one day after the two-year anniversary of Devins’ death. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 27, in Syracuse.

The Estate of Bianca Devins is seeking $150,000 for each image for each time it was shared by the DA’s Office, along with punitive damages and equitable relief.

Devins, 17, was killed on Poe Street in Utica on July 14, 2019, by Brandon Clark, of Cicero, after the two had met on the internet only two months prior. Clark admitted in court to setting up a camera on the dashboard of his vehicle so that he could record when he and Devins had sex in his SUV, and then when he slashed Devins’ throat with a knife.

Clark posted online several photographs he took of Devins’ mutilated body before attempting to kill himself. Clark pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in early 2020, and he was sentenced on March 16, 2021, to 25 years to life in state prison.

In the years since Devins’ death, her family has said they are constantly harassed from strangers online who post and share the photos of Devins’ body.

The new lawsuit claims that the DA’s Office shared the sex and murder videos, as well as nude photos from Devins’ cell phone, with multiple major news agencies, including CBS’ 48 Hours, A&E and possibly MTV and Peacock TV.

The lawsuit claims the evidence was also shared with YouTuber Alissa Tallman, a “confidante” of Clark’s.

Given Bianca’s young age, the lawsuit also claims that the DA’s Office sharing the nude images is disseminating child pornography.

The lawsuit was filed by New York City-based attorney Carrie Goldberg. Calls to District Attorney McNamara on Friday were not returned.

At no point did the Daily Sentinel request nor receive the videos or evidence from the DA’s Office nor was it offered such by the DA’s office.

Video sharing

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the Estate of Bianca Devins, which is run by her mother, Kimberly Devins. According to the lawsuit, Kimberly Devins was “fearful” from the beginning that the videos would be released and fall into the “wrong hands.”

The lawsuit states that Devins asked assistant district attorneys Michael Nolan and Sarah DeMellier about the potential release of the videos shortly after her daughter had been killed. Nolan and DeMellier were the ADAs assigned to prosecute Clark.

“They assured Kimberly that they would do whatever it took to keep Bianca’s videos and photos private,” the lawsuit states.

“They even promised they would file a motion in court to have the videos and photos sealed so the DA’s office would not be compelled to release them despite receiving Freedom of Information Law requests.”

According to the lawsuit, the DA’s Office was “embarrassed” by the media’s portrayal of its prosecution in the unrelated case of Kaitlyn Conley and the murder of Dr. Mary Yoder.

“The DA’s Office saw the murder of Bianca Devins as the perfect opportunity for redemption in the media, and as a result, courted the press and documentary makers enthusiastically turning over even illegal evidence to them that exploited Bianca’s privacy and rights, not to mention federal child pornography laws,” the lawsuit states.

Documentary filmmakers from 48 Hours and A&E both separately informed Kimberly Devins that they possessed the murder video, sex videos and nude photos of Bianca, the lawsuit states. Devins confronted ADAs Nolan and DeMellier, and they “admitted” that their office shared the evidence.

The lawsuit also states that Kimberly Devins was denied a chance to view the evidence herself.

At first, Devins chose not to view the video of her daughter’s murder, choosing instead to wait until she was “emotionally ready,” the lawsuit states. She decided it was time in November 2020, at which point ADA Nolan told her she would have to wait until after Clark’s sentencing. Devins asked why the media could see the videos and she could not.

According to the lawsuit, the DA’s Office told her that they were sharing the videos without a FOIL request, and that Bianca being 17 meant they were not in violation of New York State’s child pornography laws. Devins’ attorney then informed the DA’s Office that federal child pornography laws protect children under the age of 18.

On Feb. 15, 2021, attorneys for the Devins Estate sent a letter to McNamara requesting he stop sharing the video evidence, according to the lawsuit. On March 24, 2021, Kimberly Devins again tried to set up an appointment to view the evidence, but was told by Utica’s City Corporation Counsel that they would not share the evidence because they “didn’t want to get involved” should Devins file lawsuits against the social media companies that allowed Clark to post the images online in the first place.

On June 25, the lawsuit states that Devins finally received a “modest amount of redacted evidence” after filing her own FOIL request, and she soon after learned that the DA’s Office was still sharing the evidence with outside entities.

“McNamara deliberately retaliated against Kimberly Devins by delaying her access to the criminal evidence of her daughter dying and finally giving her but a modicum of what his office shared with others,” the lawsuit states.

Lawsuit

The lawsuit further claims that the actions of the DA’s Office “were of particular cruelty in light of the trauma Bianca had endured from being the victim of child pornography starting at age 15 and recent incidents of child exploitation being among the incidents inciting Brandon’s jealous murder of Bianca,” the lawsuit states. “For (the DA’s Office) to continue the exploitation of Bianca is unconscionable.”

The lawsuit is also seeking to stop any further sharing of the videos and other evidence through a temporary restraining order. An in-person hearing to discuss the temporary restraining order is scheduled for July 27 in Syracuse before Chief Judge Glenn T. Suddaby.

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