Detention of reporter - kosher or not?

In Alaska, Reporter Tony Hopfinger was trying to question Republican senate candidate Joe Miller at a public meeting at a public school, when the hired security took offense. The security, which included active service military members, ended up handcuffing Hopfinger to a railing for 20 minutes or so until the police showed up. The security detail also tried (unsuccessfully) to bar other reporters from taking pictures or talking to Hopfinger.

The meeting was public; there were other reporters present, the public were invited to ask questions.

The police released Hopfinger, and to date, no charges have been laid.

Huffington post report

I think that this represents intimidation of the press and wrongful imprisonment of a reporter. I would hope that the prosecutors office look at the situation very carefully, and lay charges against the security personnel who took the extreme step of detaining a civilian for asking questions of a candidate for office in a public meeting.

Miller’s office is trying to spin this as “Hopfinger going crazy and assaulting people”. Unfortunately for them, there are plenty of witnesses who say otherwise.

Witness: Reporter was rude but not a threat

I would say that regardless of anything else it’s certainly not kosher for an individual to perform a citizens’ arrest (or “public person’s arrest”) without identifying themselves or the crime for which they are arresting the individual.

Embley said Miller’s group was charged $400 to use the school for three hours, which is the same fee that is charged to any non-school group. She said those types of gatherings are considered private events even though they are held at an otherwise public facility because the group is renting the facility for its meeting.

Does that give the security guards the right to handcuff and detain someone?

Well, maybe. After all, Disney handcuffs and detains people on its property all the time, and nobody asks where that’s legal.

The meeting was not advertised as a “private event”, there was no indication at the beginning of the meeting that it was private, and there were other reporters present who were not arrested or harassed in any way. Can you point to anything that indicates that the event was advertised as “private”? Was it a private fundraiser for Republicans only? Were reporters advised that it was private at any time?

In the absence of any indication that a political event featuring a public figure running for public office at a public school is private event, and given the fact that many reporters were present, I have to think that a reasonable person would conclude that it is an event for the public.

The accusation of “trespassing” against Hopfinger only came when he was asking the candidate questions.

On Disney’s PRIVATE property.

This was a political event for the public, featuring a public figure running for public office at a public school.

The actual event was open to the public though, so while it was private in the sense that a private organization was putting it on, its not like the reporter was trespassing or crashing a private meeting or something.

Miller defends handcuffing of reporter.

Yeah, not quite.

Bolding mine.

Well, I wasn’t aware of that, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a cite that it is legal. I feel fairly confident that I couldn’t handcuff and detain people all the time in my house.

You’re inviting the wrong people to your house, then.

Phew, that’s a load off my mind. For a minute there I thought security guards cuffed a reporter for asking questions to a candidate who has made a point of refusing to answer questions about his past. Now that I know it was technically a private event and their actions may have been technically legal even if they were unwarranted, my concerns are resolved.

I make no bones about the fact that the press often focuses on irrelevant personal details about the lives of candidates for public office, and the fact that that focus has made the relationship between the press and politicians more hostile. That being said, it’s aggravating as hell that candidates for the Senate are actively shunning the press so they won’t have to answer questions about their positions, backgrounds, or do anything except get on the stump and spout talking points. It’s also somewhat ironic that people with similar views described Obama, who had little national experience but was not secretive with the press, as a “Trojan horse” just two years ago. It’s a development that cannot do anything positive for anyone except candidates who don’t like taking questions.

Tell me about it. That last bitch couldn’t break a twenty.

The event was not private, it was a public meeting with members of the public and reporters present. It was not billed as a private event, and there were no announcements saying that it was a private event at any time. The guards cuffed the reporter in an area of the public school that Miller’s group had not even rented.

The actions of the moonlighting active duty military personnel are inexcusable and non-defensible.

No, the only thing that’s necessary to effectuate an arrest is “… the actual restraint of a person or by a person’s submission to the custody of the person making the arrest.”

If they committed a misdemeanor in your presence, then you could. and navigate to Chapter 12.25.

And if I were to do that to you at a public meeting because you were asking questions I did not like… how would that be differentiated from simple assault?

ETA: Do you think you could successfully argue that Hopfinger committed a misdemeanor by trespassing at the meeting? Do you think you could convince a judge or jury that a reasonable person should have known that a public appearance of a candidate for office in a public place with members of the public and reporters present was actually a PRIVATE affair?

Hence my use of the word “technically.” Even if it was a private event - and I don’t think it qualifies as one - it’s a nitpick as far as I’m concerned.

A nitpick perhaps - but it is the only “nit” that a skilled defense attorney (see Bricker, above) would have a hope of using in a wrongful detention lawsuit.

That’s why I am at pains to point out that attempting to bill the event as “private” is a non-functional defense.