NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · OHIO · Newsgathering · June 16, 2005
Journalist arrested at crime scene to be arraigned
June 16, 2005 · Curtis Jackson, a reporter and weekend anchor for Cleveland’s ABC affiliate, WEWS-TV, will be arraigned next week on charges of misconduct at an emergency, disorderly conduct and obstruction of official business, one month after being arrested for entering an apartment building where a suspicious death occurred.
Jackson said a woman who lived in the building in Maple Heights, Ohio, approached him after he arrived on the scene May 15 and invited him inside for an interview. When police saw him with the woman inside the building, Jackson said he identified himself as a reporter and said he had been invited in. Police told to him to leave, threatening him with arrest and handcuffing him after he asked an officer for his name, Jackson said.
“This is not a case about a reporter being stopped, about a reporter being overly aggressive. . . . I think this is about the First Amendment, on two very, very vital and primary levels — the right of people to talk to the press and the right of the press to have access when everyone else has access,” Jackson said.
Maple Heights Police Chief Richard Maracz directed questions about the arrest and charges filed to the Maple Heights Law Department, which prosecutes crimes in the city. Maracz told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer immediately after the arrest that Jackson was in a crime scene and officers had asked him to leave several times before arresting him.
The building was a “free-flowing area,” Jackson said. Though there was police tape on a stairwell at one point, Jackson said he was told by the woman that police had said residents were free to come and go.
“I wasn’t so much defending my right to be there, as . . . . I was defending her right to talk to me,” Jackson said. “This was in her own home. I was an invited guest in her own home. A police officer or anyone else should not be able to determine who’s allowed into her home and who she’s allowed to talk to.”
Timothy Toma, director of the law department, said Jackson will be arraigned next week on the charges but referred other questions to the prosecutor directly handling the case. The prosecutor did not return phone calls. Jackson said he will not plead guilty to any of the charges.