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Va. Tech Panel Wants Cho's Records

The panel studying last month's massacre at Virginia Tech will go to court if necessary to get gunman Seung-Hui Cho's medical and mental health records, the group's chairman said Tuesday.

Former State Police Superintendent W. Gerald Massengill told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he thinks the records can be gotten by citing a law that requires state oversight of mental facilities and by arguing that it has a right to review counseling records that Virginia Tech may have on Cho.

"We're going to get what we need, one way or the other," Massengill said, a day after Tech officials said federal privacy laws bar them from sharing the records.

Massengill said he reached his conclusion about the possibility of getting the records after discussions with the state attorney general's office.

If that fails, he said, "We'll have to go to the courts."

Cho killed 27 students and five professors before committing suicide April 16.

Cho was found "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization" in December 2005, according to court papers. A judge ordered him into involuntary outpatient treatment, but because of privacy laws, Tech police received no notice that he complied.

University counsel Kay Heidbreder said the laws, even for someone who is deceased, mean the records cannot be shared even among departments at the university.

As it is constituted, the panel cannot issue subpoenas to compel testimony and obtain documents. Delacey Skinner — a spokeswoman for Gov. Timothy Kaine, who convened the panel — said the governor has assured members the attorney general will help them get information.

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