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Joe Miller’s Security Team Handcuffs Journalist

Via the Anchorage Daily NewsMiller security guards handcuff journalist

The editor of the Alaska Dispatch website was arrested by U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller’s private security guards Sunday as the editor attempted to interview Miller at the end of a public event in an Anchorage school.

Tony Hopfinger was handcuffed by the guards and detained in a hallway at Central Middle School until Anchorage police came and told the guards to release Hopfinger.

Hopfinger has not been charged but the owner of the Drop Zone, the private security firm that’s been providing Miller’s security, accused Hopfinger of trespassing at the public event, a town hall sponsored by the Miller campaign. The owner, William Fulton, also said Hopfinger assaulted a man by shoving him.

The story itself involves Hopfinger attempting to get an interview with Miller at the end of a townhall-style meeting at a public school.

The shoving in question is described by Hopfinger as follows:

Hopfinger, who was holding a small video camera, said he was attempting to draw out a statement from Miller on why he was disciplined by the Fairbanks North Star Borough when Miller worked there as a part-time attorney. After Miller walked away, Hopfinger said, he was surrounded by Miller supporters and security guards and felt threatened, so he pushed one of them away.

The security detail also seized Hopfinger’s camera and allegedly erased the portion that contained video of the handcuffing.

First, I am not sure how one can be trespassing whilst at a pulic event being held at a public school.  According to the story, Hopfinger wasn’t the only one being threatened:

While Hopfinger was still in handcuffs, the guards attempted to prevent other reporters from talking to him and threatened them too with arrest for trespass. A Daily News reporter interviewed Hopfinger anyway. No other reporters were arrested, though a few shoving matches and chest bumps ensued as the guards attempted to cordon off Hopfinger and block photographs and videos from being taken of the bizarre school scene.

If one is going to run for the Senate, then reporters are going to ask questions.  I have little doubt that Hopfinger was being obnoxious from Miller’s point of view (a blogger and his video camera and all), but that comes with the territory.

Second, even if Hopfinger could be said to have been trespassing (which again, strikes me as a problematic position), then surely he could have a) been escorted from the property, or b) the police could have been called.  The notion that a candidate’s private security details could handcuff a private citizen and take possession of his camera strikes me as highly problematic.

Miller has created his own problem in many ways by saying that he will not answer legitimate questions about actions he undertook whilst a public employee saying, instead, that such matters are “private.”

h/t:  The Political Wire.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. [...] seems to be no realistic chance of the Democrat winning that race.  But the wheels seem to be coming off the campaign of Republican nominee Joe Miller. The beneficiary would seem to be incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was defeated in [...]

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  2. grampagravy says:

    Candidate Miller thinks it’s okay to go to a public event with his hired thugs and have said thugs apply restraints to a member of the pubic and confiscate private property because he doesn’t want to answer questions. Just think how far Senator Miller will think he can go! I’m beginning to think that this year will be the one in which the whack-o party proves that it’s possible to underestimate the intelligence of American voters after all.

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  3. [...] me @ OTB:  Joe Miller’s Security Team Handcuffs Journalist. addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D19431'; addthis_title = [...]

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  4. Michael says:

    As usual OTB omitts one salient fact to this story. The reporter physically shoved a guard(and admits it) and thats is why he was handcuffed. Your dislike of Miller should not prevent you from reporting the true facts of the story.

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  5. @Michael: did you read the post? The shoving is mentioned (thrice, in fact).

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  6. mantis says:

    @Michael: did you read the post?

    Who needs to read when you can assume!

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  7. MichaelW says:

    The shoving is mentioned (thrice, in fact).

    While you mentioned it, you don’t seem to comprehend its importance to the story. What Hopfinger did was assault and battery, plain and simple. The security detail did exactly what they’re supposed to do.

    In other words, the real story is that an aggressive blogger got too aggressive and was dealt with appropriately — i.e. there is no real story at all.

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  8. mantis says:

    While you mentioned it, you don’t seem to comprehend its importance to the story. What Hopfinger did was assault and battery, plain and simple. The security detail did exactly what they’re supposed to do.

    Prove that they weren’t assaulting him first. Oh, that’s right, they deleted the video. I’m sure we can just take Miller’s goons’ word for it.

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  9. Max Lybbert says:

    > I am not sure how one can be trespassing whilst at a public event being held at a public school.

    I’m not an attorney, but I do believe it’s possible to trespass even in these circumstances. The argument is simply that somebody could do something to lose his permission to be at an event.

    > The notion that a candidate’s private security details could handcuff a private citizen and take possession of his camera strikes me as highly problematic.

    Again, I’m not an attorney. However, mall security guards have the ability to handcuff people, and hold them until police arrive. And candidates are, of course, private citizens. So the notion that a private citizen’s private security guards have the ability to handcuff a private citizen may be problematic, but I believe it’s legal so long as the security guards have a reasonable basis for the handcuffing. I’m not as confident about the camera or the erased footage.

    If the reporter or his employer believes the security guards went overboard, tehre are charges they could file, including destruction of property and kidnapping.

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  10. MichaelW says:

    @mantis:

    “Prove that they weren’t assaulting him first.”

    It was an admission made by Hopfinger himself:

    Hopfinger, who was holding a small video camera, said he was attempting to draw out a statement from Miller on why he was disciplined by the Fairbanks North Star Borough when Miller worked there as a part-time attorney. After Miller walked away, Hopfinger said, he was surrounded by Miller supporters and security guards and felt threatened, so he pushed one of them away.

    That’s assault and battery.

    “Oh, that’s right, they deleted the video. I’m sure we can just take Miller’s goons’ word for it.”

    Deleted the video? You have proof of that? Oh, I see, you’re just taking Hopfinger’s word for it.

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  11. sam says:

    “That’s assault and battery.”

    No, it’s not. At most it would be battery, but if he felt threatened because he was menaced by the guards, then it wouldn’t even rise to simple battery. And, as a matter of fact, Hopfinger might have grounds for a kidnapping charge against the guards.

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  12. Jim Treacher says:

    Reporters should be able to shove whoever they want without consequence.

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  13. Jim Treacher says:

    “Prove that they weren’t assaulting him first. Oh, that’s right, they deleted the video. I’m sure we can just take Miller’s goons’ word for it.”

    How about taking Hopfinger’s word for it? He said he shoved somebody because he “felt threatened.” That’s when they handcuffed him.

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  14. MichaelW says:

    “No, it’s not. At most it would be battery, but if he felt threatened because he was menaced by the guards, then it wouldn’t even rise to simple battery.”

    Yes, it is (see here).

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  15. sam says:

    “He said he shoved somebody because he “felt threatened.” That’s when they handcuffed him.”

    And, as I said, if he was menaced by the guards, he was justified in the shove. And when they handcuffed him, they may have made themselves liable to a kidnapping charge.

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  16. mantis says:

    How about taking Hopfinger’s word for it? He said he shoved somebody because he “felt threatened.” That’s when they handcuffed him.

    Why didn’t police charge him with assault? Not enough witnesses? Hmmm?

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  17. MichaelW says:

    “Why didn’t police charge him with assault? Not enough witnesses? Hmmm?”

    A. Because nobody pressed charges.

    B. Because it wasn’t criminal assault (i.e. nothing to arrest him for).

    C. Because it wasn’t a big enough deal for anyone to bother wasting their time on.

    D. All of the above.

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  18. mantis says:

    I do love these freedom-loving conservatives who think a gang of hired goons can accost you, and if you resist, you are the aggressor and deserve whatever punishment they mete out.

    I wonder if they’d be saying the same thing if this were security detail for a Democrat? How about some union members? Haha, I don’t really wonder. I already know the answer.

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  19. mantis says:

    B. Because it wasn’t criminal assault (i.e. nothing to arrest him for).

    So it’s ok with you if the security detail for political candidates handcuff reporters even though they’ve done nothing criminal, in a public place, at a public event? You sure about that?

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  20. MichaelW says:

    I do love how these freedom-loving liberals can ignore the actual evidence available, including admissions of the person they assert is the victim, and instead create their own version of the “truth” to fit their agenda.

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  21. Jim Treacher says:

    “And, as I said, if he was menaced by the guards, he was justified in the shove. And when they handcuffed him, they may have made themselves liable to a kidnapping charge.”

    Heh! Okay, hon, you go with that. Best of luck.

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  22. mantis says:

    I do love how these freedom-loving liberals can ignore the actual evidence available, including admissions of the person they assert is the victim, and instead create their own version of the “truth” to fit their agenda.

    You mean evidence like the fact that they threatened other reporters as well?

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  23. Jim Treacher says:

    “I do love how these freedom-loving liberals can ignore the actual evidence available, including admissions of the person they assert is the victim, and instead create their own version of the ‘truth’ to fit their agenda.”

    Hey, just because the guy admitted shoving somebody doesn’t mean he actually did. You know how crafty these teabaggers can be. Can you prove the Koch brothers DIDN’T bribe him to make up that story? You can’t, can you?

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  24. MichaelW says:

    “So it’s ok with you if the security detail for political candidates handcuff reporters even though they’ve done nothing criminal, in a public place, at a public event? You sure about that?”

    Leaving aside some of your mistaken premises, what do you think security details do? Moreover, how is this terribly different from security guards detaining someone until the police arrive on suspicion of shoplifting, trespassing or some other violation?

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  25. sam says:

    “Heh! Okay, hon, you go with that. Best of luck.”

    Shouldn’t you be attending to your mostly unread blog?

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  26. MichaelW says:

    “You mean evidence like the fact that they threatened other reporters as well?”

    Threatened them with what? Being detained for trespassing at a campaign event? How is that at all relevant to the FACT that Hopfinger assaulted and battered the security detail?

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  27. mantis says:

    Hey, just because the guy admitted shoving somebody doesn’t mean he actually did.

    Actually, no one said that. If you were at a Democratic candidates campaign event, and a group of the candidates goons surrounded and threatened you just for asking questions, would you attempt to break free of them? If so, would you be the guilty party?

    And again, why no charges? If he committed a crime, and the police came, why was he set free?

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  28. mantis says:

    Being detained for trespassing at a campaign event?

    Public event. Public school. Just because you’re a Republican doesn’t mean you own the world.

    How is that at all relevant to the FACT that Hopfinger assaulted and battered the security detail?

    You mean the goons who surrounded and threatened him, then took his video camera and erased the evidence? I’d say it’s quite relevant that they threatened other reporters at the public event, in the public school.

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  29. Jim Treacher says:

    “Shouldn’t you be attending to your mostly unread blog?”

    I’m very sorry for hurting your feelings.

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  30. Jim Treacher says:

    “If you were at a Democratic candidates campaign event, and a group of the candidates goons surrounded and threatened you just for asking questions, would you attempt to break free of them? If so, would you be the guilty party?”

    So to you, it depends on which political party it is. Interesting.

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  31. mantis says:

    Leaving aside some of your mistaken premises, what do you think security details do?

    Well, if you’re a Republican, they keep pesky reporters from asking you questions you don’t like by surrounding them, handcuffing them and keeping them against their will while the candidate safely escapes those questions. Apparently.

    Moreover, how is this terribly different from security guards detaining someone until the police arrive on suspicion of shoplifting, trespassing or some other violation?

    It’s different because this is a reporter asking a candidate questions at a public campaign event. I know that’s hard for you to understand, as being a Republican you probably think anyone can be arrested or detained for anything at all, at any time.

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  32. mantis says:

    So to you, it depends on which political party it is. Interesting.

    You didn’t answer the question, shitheel.

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  33. MichaelW says:

    “Public event. Public school. Just because you’re a Republican doesn’t mean you own the world.”

    Private citizen, campaign event. As I understand it, everyone there had a ticket. Ticketholders do not have carte blanche and can have their permission to be present revoked by the ticket issuer.

    And try walking into a public school without permission sometime, and then refusing to leave. Afterwards, be sure to let us all know what you were detained and/or arrested for.

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  34. Jim Treacher says:

    “You didn’t answer the question, shitheel.”

    Oh dear, look who’s cranky.

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  35. MichaelW says:

    “Well, if you’re a Republican, they keep pesky reporters from asking you questions you don’t like by surrounding them, handcuffing them and keeping them against their will while the candidate safely escapes those questions. Apparently.”

    Nobody was kept from asking any questions, and in fact Hopfinger asked his question several times over. He was detained for assaulting and battering the security detail, which he admitted doing.

    “It’s different because this is a reporter asking a candidate questions at a public campaign event. I know that’s hard for you to understand, as being a Republican you probably think anyone can be arrested or detained for anything at all, at any time.”

    Again, he wasn’t detained for asking questions.

    And you might want hold off on the assumptions (e.g. I’m not a Republican) and the ad hominem … they’re really not necessary.

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  36. mantis says:

    Oh dear, look who’s cranky.

    No, I’ve thought you were a shitheel since I first encountered you.

    You still didn’t answer the question. Wonder why…

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  37. Jim Treacher says:

    “No, I’ve thought you were a shitheel since I first encountered you.”

    Sounds like it was memorable. For you, at least.

    “You still didn’t answer the question. Wonder why…”

    It certainly couldn’t be your approach.

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  38. mantis says:

    Private citizen, campaign event.

    Public campaign event.

    And try walking into a public school without permission sometime

    A reporter at a public school after hours during a public campaign event and a random person walking into a school in session are two completely different things. I understand you’re not interested in acknowledging the reality of the situation, and I understand why.

    Nobody was kept from asking any questions, and in fact Hopfinger asked his question several times over.

    He was kept from asking questions when the candidates staff surrounded and threatened him.

    He was detained for assaulting and battering the security detail, which he admitted doing.

    Again, why wasn’t he charged with a crime when the police arrived? Perhaps because he didn’t commit one?

    Again, he wasn’t detained for asking questions.

    No, he was surrounded and threatened for doing so. He was detained for trying to get away from the goons.

    And you might want hold off on the assumptions (e.g. I’m not a Republican)

    So what?

    and the ad hominem … they’re really not necessary.

    You obviously don’t understand what ad hominem means.

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  39. mantis says:

    It certainly couldn’t be your approach.

    Says the Internet’s paragon of politeness and decorum.

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  40. Jim Treacher says:

    “Says the Internet’s paragon of politeness and decorum.”

    So I deserve it because you don’t like me. That worldview explains a lot.

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  41. MichaelW says:

    @mantis:

    It was not a “public event” (although it does not appear that tickets were used as mistakenly alleged), and the space was rented by the Miller campaign. (See here: “[Drop Zone owner, William] Fulton said that because the school district rented the space to the campaign, it had the right to declare anyone in trespass. He said Hopfinger was “stalking” Miller and posed a security threat.”)

    Your claims that Hopfinger was detained for asking questions, while much more interesting to some I’m sure, are not made any truer by repetition. He was detained for posing a security risk, which became apparent when Hopfinger assaulted the security detail and moved towards Miller.

    In addition, while the police did not arrest Hopfinger, they have turned the case over to the D.A.: “Anchorage Police who responded to the call said they would leave it to the District Attorney’s office to decide whether to prosecute. They spent more than an hour taking statements, then left.”

    As for ad hominem, I am quite aware of what it means, and that this is an example: “I know that’s hard for you to understand, as being a Republican you probably think anyone can be arrested or detained for anything at all, at any time.”

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  42. [...] the scuffle between a reporter and private security guards employed by Joe Miller’s Senate cam… is getting most of the media attention today, Anchorage blogger Steve Aufrecht noticed something [...]

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  43. Wayne says:

    MW don’t you get it. Liberals can do anything they want and not be held accountable for it. If they assault someone, well they must have had justifiable reason for doing so. If they left someone in a car at the bottom of the river, they had a good reason. A Democrat male sleeping with a male page is understandable but a Republican e-mailing a former male page is intolerable.

    A disruptive liberal supposedly feeling threaten gives them a right to act however they want and assault security personnel. I suspect this security firm has performed security for both Dems and Reps and are not some thug friends hired by Miller.

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  44. Wayne says:

    From the link above.

    An Anchorage police officer offered to take the camera into custody and have it examined in the crime lab to investigate whether evidence had been destroyed, but Hopfinger declined.

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  45. mantis says:

    It was not a “public event”

    Yes it was.

    “[Drop Zone owner, William] Fulton said that because the school district rented the space to the campaign, it had the right to declare anyone in trespass. He said Hopfinger was “stalking” Miller and posed a security threat.”)

    Sorry, it was an event open to the public, at a public building. Just because one of Miller’s goons claims to have dominion doesn’t make it so.

    Your claims that Hopfinger was detained for asking questions

    I didn’t make that claim.

    while much more interesting to some I’m sure, are not made any truer by repetition.

    I didn’t repeat them either. You saying I did doesn’t become any more truthful through repetition.

    He was detained for posing a security risk, which became apparent when Hopfinger assaulted the security detail and moved towards Miller.

    Well, you can just make stuff up, but that doesn’t make it true.

    In addition, while the police did not arrest Hopfinger, they have turned the case over to the D.A.: “Anchorage Police who responded to the call said they would leave it to the District Attorney’s office to decide whether to prosecute. They spent more than an hour taking statements, then left.”

    Sounds like a big security risk to me. How much you want to bet no charges will ever be filed?

    As for ad hominem, I am quite aware of what it means, and that this is an example: “I know that’s hard for you to understand, as being a Republican you probably think anyone can be arrested or detained for anything at all, at any time.”

    That’s not ad hominem. Now I know for sure you don’t understand the term.

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  46. Alex Knapp says:

    It’s worth noting that the Anchorage Daily News has video of Miller’s security detail bumping into ANOTHER reporter, then telling that reporter that “she shoved me, just like that guy over there” [pointing to Hopfinger]. The security guard repeatedly put his hands on the reporter, who repeatedly said, in a loud voice, “Stop touching me.” The police officer did nothing in response, even though that’s clearly battery.

    This was in the midst of Miller’s security detail attempting to escort two reporters off the premises for “trespass.” (Since it was an unticketed event on public property to which members of the public were invited, it wasn’t actually trespass, and the security detail was committing several crimes in asking them to leave.)

    The video also shows an ADN reporter asking the security detail for their authority to escort people off the premises, which the detail did not provide. The security detail claimed that the campaign event had leased the entire school (which was not true). They also refused to provide evidence of that as well.

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  47. MichaelW says:

    @mantis:

    Since you’re both a liar …

    “I didn’t make that claim.” [Yes you did: "Well, if you’re a Republican, they keep pesky reporters from asking you questions you don’t like by surrounding them, handcuffing them and keeping them against their will while the candidate safely escapes those questions. Apparently."]

    … and an idiot …

    “That’s not ad hominem. Now I know for sure you don’t understand the term.” [Yes it is: "ad hominem (æd ˈhɒmɪˌnɛm) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]

    — adj , — adv
    1. directed against a person rather than against his arguments
    2. based on or appealing to emotion rather than reason “]

    I guess I’m done with you.

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  48. MichaelW says:

    @Alex Knapp:

    While I disagree with your view of the video, I guess some will see one thing, and others will see something else (see, for example, another eyewitness account, albeit from a Miller supporter).

    Regarding the trespass issue, the mall is also open to the “public” but security guards can detain you and kick you out for trespassing. Just because the building is owned by the state, doesn’t give anyone and everyone the ability to go traipsing about as they please. Especially when one party has leased the building for an event, and the owner of the facility requires that such party have security.

    Since trespass is simply an invasion of one’s rights to exclusive possession (i.e. entering or remaining on premises without permission), it seems pretty clear that someone could indeed trespass at the event, that the owner knew this and required security, and that the security detail thought Hopfinger was trespassing when he impeded Miller’s path.

    Now, it could turn out that a court decides the issue against DropZone, and for Hopfinger, but clearly the security personnel had a colorable argument, even if were to eventually turn out wrong. And since their ultimate job is to keep the premises and the candidate safe, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they don’t stop and weigh the finer points of the law when confronted with a pushy, antagonistic and potentially violent person.

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  49. Max Lybbert says:

    Just to clarify my understanding of trespass:

    If you are at a place without permission, you are guilty of trespass, regardless of whether the property owner is an individual, corporation, nonprofit, government, etc. For instance, I live near several state and national parks open to the public. If I enter one of the parks without paying the admission fee, or after hours, or I go into restricted areas in the park, I can be charged with trespass. This is simply the way the world works.

    Additionally, I can lose my permission to be somewhere. For instance, if I enter a national park during park hours and pay the admission fee but am later caught with a controlled substance I will be charged with several things, including trespass. The act of bringing controlled substances onto federal park land revokes my permission to be on that land. Again, this is simply the way the world works.

    If I go to a city council meeting, and the council declares that — following the relevant open meetings laws — they are going behind closed doors to discuss a matter, my permission to be at the council meeting ends and I need to leave to avoid getting arrested for trespass.

    As a thought experiment, could the reporter have broken into the principal’s office at the school and claimed he was not guilty of trespass because an event open to the public was being held at the time? Of course not, because the permission to be at the event had some limits, such as actually being at the event and not in restricted areas. If the reporter had been backstage without permission he would also have exceeded his permission.

    I haven’t read up on the details of this particular event. But while the facts that an event was open to the public and was taking place on public property are interesting and important, they aren’t a complete defense against a charge of trespass. It is entirely possible to be charged with trespass, even at a public event on public land.

    I don’t expect either side to pursue the case. But if the reporter or his employer wanted to file their own charges they easily could do so (false imprisonment, kidnapping, destruction of property all come to mind). And if the case did actually end up in court, the question would turn on whether the reporter exceeded his permission to be at the event.

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  50. wr says:

    Fascinating how the morons who constantly scream about “freedom” whole heartedly endorse politicians arresting and handcuffing citizens who ask uncomfortable questions. Just goes to show that freedom means they can do anything, and those annoying “others” wil all be jailed until the camps can be built. Welcome to Mussolini’s Italy, where the army of losers and mouthbreathers can stomp the hell out of anyone they want, as long as they tip the billionaires on the way out. Yay Freedom!

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  51. Max Lybbert says:

    I should probably add that politicians have a relationship with the media that reminds me of celebrities and the media. Both celebrities and politicians thrive on media coverage, but both then complain about paparazzi, aggressive reporters, etc.

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  52. Max Lybbert says:

    wr: From my point of view, I’m not arguing what the law should be (although I do appreciate the fact that somebody breaking into my son’s school to his personal information would be guilty of trespass), just what the law is. It appears that you’ve come to accept that it is in fact possible to trespass on government property, because as the advice to lawyers goes “if the law is against you, pound on the facts; if the facts are against you, pound on the law; and if both are against you, pound on the table.” I’m not sure if you’re pounding on the facts or the table, but you definitely aren’t pounding on the law.

    BTW, I’m not talking about the specific facts because I don’t trust anybody to have a complete and unbiased version of the facts available.

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  53. tom p says:

    ” Moreover, how is this terribly different from security guards detaining someone until the police arrive on suspicion of shoplifting, trespassing or some other violation?”

    The idiocy of this statement cries for clarification: Michael, you DO know the difference between public and private property, don’t you?

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  54. [...] That should be an obvious, nonpartisan position about which we can all agree.  And yet, as the comments on my previous post (as well as any number of posts on the subject elsewhere) on this subject [...]

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  55. [...] question. That should be an obvious, nonpartisan position about which we can all agree. And yet, as the comments on my previous post (as well as any number of posts on the subject elsewhere) on this subject [...]

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  56. anjin-san says:

    Interesting. The right feels that the ability to pack heat at Starbucks is essential to freedom, but a reporter asking a few questions and holding his ground at a public event earns him handcuffs.

    “Speak through Fox News”.

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  57. [...] an Alaska journalist and security guards working for Joe Miller’s Senate campaign that Steven Taylor has been covering. It turns out that several of the “guards” were active-duty [...]

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  58. anjin-san says:

    > ” Moreover, how is this terribly different from security guards detaining someone until the police arrive on suspicion of shoplifting, trespassing or some other violation?”

    Because stealing and annoying a politician are two different things?

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  59. [...] answer questions about legitimate questions about corrupt practices as a public official, a bizarre arrest of a journalist at one of his events, and some unusual policy positions — including advocating an East German [...]

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