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Reporter arrested at Price-Conway event in WV

May 10, 2017

Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, was arrested Tuesday at the West Virginia Capitol for allegedly causing a disturbance and yelling questions at federal leaders in town, court records show. According to WSAZ, the altercation happened during a visit from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Special Counsel to the President of the United States Kellyanne Conway.

The 54 year old reported from Charleston, has been charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, which is a misdemeanor. According to the criminal complaint, Heyman was arrested after “aggressively breaching the Secret Service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area walking up the hallway in the main building of the Capitol.”

The complaint also said that Heyman caused a disturbance by “yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.” The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) added that Heyman works for the Public News Service and mainly reports on West Virginia-based stories.

BREAKING: Dan Heyman from @PNS_News has been arrested at the WV State Capitol by Capitol Police for trying to ask Secretary Price a question

In a press conference held shortly after posting bail, Heyman said he asked Price repeatedly about whether domestic violence is considered a preexisting condition under the new GOP healthcare bill. According to Heyman’s account, he waited for Price to come into the building and then reached past those accompanying Price with his phone and repeatedly asked his healthcare questions, adding that a number of other reporters wanted to bring up the issue of preexisting conditions.

He said capitol police at some point “decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me.” He couldn’t remember how many times he asked the question, he said, but he added that it is his job to ask questions, expressing disbelief that he was arrested.

“First time I’ve ever been arrested for asking a question. First time I’ve ever heard of someone getting arrested for asking a question,” he said. Heyman said he asked his questions in a public space and received no warnings that he was in the wrong place or doing other activities to warrant his arrest.

“No police officer told me ‘you’re in the wrong place,’” he said quoted by The Hill.

The police “put hands on me, although they didn’t hurt me, certainly,” he added. Heyman asked them if he was under arrest, according to his version of events, and they said “yes.” He also said he told the police he was a member of the press.  The police didn’t immediately read him his Miranda Rights, he added, because they said were not asking him questions.

“It’s dreadful. This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to find out if someone is going to be affected by this healthcare law…I think it is a question that deserves to be answered,” he added.

Heyman had to pay $5,000 bond and was charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, a misdemeanor.

* * *

The story has caused quite a stir within the DC press pool, where depending on one’s political affiliation it is either an example of authorities cracking down on vigilant and inquisitive reporters and blocking free speech, or of the media pushing the boundaries of aggression when it comes to reporting on politicians. In any case, it will hardly help in bridging the divide between the press and the administration.

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