The Reporter and Photographer arrested in June for not heeding a Highway Patrolman's order to move are headed to court this morning.
I heard from a person close to the situation that the DA is not dropping the charges and the Missouri Highway Patrol is pushing for prosectution.
Got this Press Release about it too...
To: Missouri news outlets and SPJ Chapters
From: Ron Sylvester, Region 7 Director, Society of Professional Journalists
STATEMENT ON THE ACTIONS OF THE MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, a television reporter and photographer from Springfield are expected to be in the Henry County Courthouse in Clinton.
They are facing charges being brought at the insistence of the Missouri Highway Patrol.
We feel that pursuing this case amounts to no less than attempted assault and battery against the First Amendment.
The misdemeanor charges stem from the KYTV crew's attempts to cover a breaking news story of a collapsed building earlier this summer. State troopers interrupted Sara Sheffeld's live report in June to take her and photographer Cliff Erwin into custody. Troopers claim she was in a restricted area, although there were other reporters nearby, who were allowed to remain.
In July, our organization reached out to the Highway Patrol, offering to help resolve this issue, improve relations between their agency and the news media. We received no response. Other press organizations in the state have made similar pleas, but the Missouri Highway Patrol has chosen to remain silent. Instead, they are pushing through what we feel is an unnecessary case, further burdening an already crowded court system and threatening the rights of a free press.
By ignoring our requests for further information and our offers to work to improve relations, the Missouri Highway Patrol has chosen to bully journalists through the criminal justice system. We feel the First Amendment was created to prevent this kind of strong-armed tactics by the government.
We urge the local prosecutor to drop these charges. If that official does not have the courage to do so, then we ask the court to exercise its constitutional right as a check to the executive branch of government and dismiss a case that we feel shows an abuse of power.
People who carry notebooks and pens are often at a disadvantage to those who carry badges and guns. But each performs a valuable service in informing and protecting our democracy. Our organization encourages the people with the notebooks and pens to act responsibly in carrying out their duties. We also expect law enforcement to act responsibly in wielding their power.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.