Reporter acquitted of obstruction charge
RHODE ISLAND–A Providence Journal-Bulletin reporter was cleared in early May of a charge of obstruction of justice based on his persistent questioning of police at the scene of a reported shooting.
A District Court judge in Providence said that reporter Gerald Carbone may have aggravated police by asking questions of numerous officers at the crime scene, but aggravation does not necessarily constitute obstruction and “aggravation has become part of a policeman’s life.”
The judge also noted that reporters have no more rights than ordinary citizens in gaining access to crime scenes and that an obstruction charge could be warranted if a reporter hindered police operations.
Carbone said that in late October 1996 he was sent to cover a reported shooting at a rock club a few blocks from the newspaper’s offices. He approached one of the police officers who had arrived at the scene and asked him what was going on. The officer said he did not have time to talk.
Carbone said he asked another officer for information, but was told to stay on a sidewalk across the street. The reporter complied with the order, returning to the scene only after the police line had been set up. He questioned another officer and asked for the supervising officer. He was arrested while looking for the captain. Carbone was then brought to the police station where he was jailed for several hours.
The reports of a shooting turned out to be false. (Rhode Island v. Carbone; Media Counsel: Peter DiBiase, Providence)