Friday, August 07, 2015

Sheriff threatens to arrest reporter for trying to attend news conference he claims was for TV only

The sheriff in Benton County, Arkansas, last week threatened to arrest a print journalist for attempting to attend a news conference the sheriff claimed was for television media only, Doug Thompson reports for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Gazette reporter Tracy Neal, who had just finished an interview with Benton County Sheriff Kelley Cradduck, found out that a news conference was scheduled to begin where Cradduck planned to announce he was seeking federal grants to buy body cameras for deputies. (Gazette photo by Jason Ivester: Benton County Sheriff Kelley Cradduck speaking at the news conference Aug. 1)

When Neal said he would stay for the new conference, "Cradduck objected, saying it was just for television stations, according to accounts by both," Thompson writes. Neal told Thompson, "I told the sheriff that he was having a press conference in a public building and I should be allowed to attend." Neal said Cradduck threatened to arrest him, and he was told not to enter the news conference.

Cradduck, who claimed the television stations called the news conference—a fact disputed by representatives from one of the attending stations—said he "didn't threaten to arrest Neal until after he had told Neal numerous times he wasn't allowed to attend," Thompson writes. He told Thompson, "He doesn't have the right to ignore me . . . [Neal] was breaking the rules in a building built on rules. He cannot disobey me in that building." By the end of the exchange, witnesses said Cradduck told Neal, "Tracy, get your ass out of here! Now!"

When Cradduck realized a photographer from the Gazette had already been admitted to the news conference, he relented, letting Neal stay, Thompson writes. Cradduck told Thompson that he thought the journalists were from different papers, and if more than one paper received notice of the news conference, then it must have not been just for television media. (Read more)

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