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Reporter accepts probation after interview arrest

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    NMU         VIRGINIA    

    NMU         VIRGINIA         Newsgathering         Sep 25, 2001    

Reporter accepts probation after interview arrest

  • Judge orders Potomac News reporter to serve 50 hours of community service for her arrest following an interview with a high school principal

A former Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger reporter received one year of probation, 50 hours of community service and an order to stay away from a North Virginia high school after being arrested for trespassing.

Kelly Campbell pleaded not guilty in Prince William County Court on Sept. 14, after receiving advice that if the court heard the evidence they would find her guilty because it would come down to her word against that of a police officer and school principal.

“I didn’t want to do it,” Campbell said, “but I just wanted this over with.”

Campbell was arrested on June 6 at Woodbridge High School after an interview with principal Karen Spillman ended abruptly. Campbell said she was asking Spillman about a hotly debated biology experiment taking place at the high school, involving students who were assigned to care for baby ducks.

“I was trying to reach an assistant principal by phone but I was unable to,” Campbell said. “I asked the school if I could come down, and they told me I could. The principal said she would talk to me.”

When Campbell asked Spillman for the name of the biology teacher, the principal halted the interview.

“I sat there in shock when she said the interview was over,” Campbell said. “It’s a timing issue and overreacting issue instead of a trespassing issue. It’s not like I was staging a sit-in.

“The other thing is, I could have written the story without their input, but I don’t like writing unbalanced stories.”

The charge of misdemeanor criminal trespassing will be dropped if Campbell performs 50 hours of community service, pays $50 in court costs, stays off Woodbridge High School property for one year and maintains good behavior.

Two weeks after the incident Campbell moved to New Jersey to work as a reporter for the Press of the Atlantic, where she had accepted a job prior to her arrest.


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© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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