|NMU||NEW YORK||Newsgathering||Oct 12, 2000|
Judge dismisses contempt charge against reporter
- A Buffalo judge threw out the latest in a series of charges against a reporter who has had a number of run-ins with a local politician and his girlfriend.
Reporter Richard Kern has prevailed in his latest court battle after a judge dismissed a contempt charge against him.
Kern, a reporter for the Buffalo Beat, faced a criminal contempt charge for allegedly harassing city employee Mildred Castro. Judge Robert Russell threw out the charge because the evidence did not support the claim Kern violated an restraining order by hand-delivering a copy of his latest article to Castro’s office on June 13.
The court had ordered the reporter to stay away from Castro after a previous altercation between the two.
In his ruling, Russell said Castro was not in the office when Kern visited and ruled the purpose of his visit was to deliver the article to a different employee and was “in no way related to Ms. Castro.” Additionally, the visit to the office did not violate the spirit of the order because Kern did not deliberately try to meet Castro, the judge said.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office has until Oct. 27 to appeal the dismissal.
Kern’s attorney, Michael Kuzma, was satisfied with the decision, but called the city’s treatment of his client “ridiculous.” Kuzma claims city officials are using legal action to silence his client.
“What you have here is the DA using the law as an instrument of repression,” Kuzma said. “It’s just another outrage.”
Castro could not be reached for comment.
The ruling is the latest action in a four-year battle between Kern and city officials. In particular, Kern has had numerous altercations with former City Councilman Robert Quintana, who is dating Castro. Kern has been arrested eight times while covering city hall stories, five of which times Quintana or his friends and associates initiated the complaint.
Police arrested Kern for trespassing at a conference held by Quintana in June. Following that confrontation, Castro filed a complaint alleging Kern threatened delegates and tried to push his way through a crowd. The court later dropped all the charges against Kern because it failed to find sufficient evidence against him.
(New York v. Kern; Media Counsel: Michael Kuzma, Buffalo) — LR
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press