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Reporter charged after removing videotape from car

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    NMU         MINNESOTA         Press at Home & Abroad         May 22, 2000    

Reporter charged after removing videotape from car

  • A television reporter investigating a story on dogfighting was charged with theft and tampering with a motor vehicle after he took a videotape from a car on private property.

A St. Paul television reporter was charged May 16 with theft for what he called “aggressive newsgathering” when he removed a videotape from a car parked on private property.

KMSP-TV reporter Tom Lyden was following up on a story about a professional boxer who had been arrested on felony charges. Police were investigating a domestic complaint made by the girlfriend of the man, Will Grigsby, and found evidence indicating that he had been involved in staging dogfights and mistreating animals on the girlfriend’s property in Princeton, Minn. Thirteen pitbulls were taken from the property.

Lyden went to the property and saw a videotape in the seat pocket of a car parked in the driveway. According to the complaint, he opened the door and removed the tape because he “wanted to see what was on it.” KMSP then aired portions of the tape, which showed dogfights and a person believed to be Grigsby. Prosecutors said the tape is believed to be about six years old and apparently was not taken on the girlfriend’s property.

Lyden admitted to police that he took the tape, but said he always intended to return it. After making a copy, he turned over the original tape before the broadcast to the county Humane Society.

The Sherburne County complaint charges Lyden with motor vehicle tampering, theft, and temporary theft, which are misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of a $700 fine and 90 days in jail.

The Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists disputed Lyden’s claim that the action was justified as “agressive newsgathering,” and said he acted unethically.

“Professional journalists cannot and will not condone these types of actions in pursuit of this story,” the state chapter said in a press release.

KMSP officials have supported Lyden and have not removed him from the air, according to an Associated Press report. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 19.

(Minnesota v. Lyden)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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