U.S. Marshals Accused of Violating Gannett, AP Reporters’ Constitutional Rights
JACKSON, MS – The U.S. Marshals Service has been accused of violating the Constitutional rights of two Mississippi journalists with last month’s seizure of the reporters’ tape recorders during a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The charges were brought in a federal suit filed today by The Hattiesburg (Miss.) American, The Associated Press and the reporters, Antoinette Konz and Denise Grones. The American is a Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI) newspaper.
On April 7, U.S. Deputy Marshal Melanie Rube seized a tape recorder from Konz and removed the tape. Rube also demanded the surrender of a digital recorder from Denise Grones of the Associated Press. Konz and Grones were covering Scalia’s appearance at a local high school. The machines later were returned to the journalists, but only after Scalia’s comments were erased.
The suit names Rube, other unidentified marshals and the Marshals Service and charges violation of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.
In addition to damages, the lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting Rube and the Marshals Service from seizing and erasing journalists’ recordings in any similar situations.
“It is ironic this seizure took place while Justice Scalia was making a speech about preserving the Constitution,” said Gary L. Watson, president of Gannett’s Newspaper Division. “We’re taking this unusual action because the justice system must step in and bring these illegal actions to an immediate halt.
“Given the federal government’s very tough stance on those who violate the law, the Marshals Service and Deputy Rube must be willing to taste their own medicine,” Watson said. “An apology or a hollow commitment to study the issue will not suffice nor serve as a meaningful deterrent to prevent any repeat performances.”
Gannett Co., Inc. is a leading international news and information company that publishes 101 daily newspapers in the USA, including USA TODAY, the nation’s largest-selling daily newspaper. The company also owns more than 500 non-daily publications in the USA and USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper magazine. Gannett subsidiary Newsquest is the United Kingdom’s second largest regional newspaper company. Newsquest publishes more than 300 titles, including 17 daily newspapers, and a network of prize-winning Web sites. Gannett also operates 22 television stations in the United States and is an Internet leader with sites sponsored by its TV stations and newspapers including USATODAY.com, one of the most popular news sites on the Web.
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