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Charges Dismissed Against WV Journalist

Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman faced six months of jail time for an incident in May at the West Virginia State Capitol. (D. Heyman)
Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman faced six months of jail time for an incident in May at the West Virginia State Capitol. (D. Heyman)
September 7, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia journalist whose arrest drew national attention is off the hook.

Prosecutors dismissed charges on Wednesday against Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, who faced six months of jail time for an incident in May at the State Capitol.

The official complaint alleged Heyman caused a disturbance by yelling questions at U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Heyman did not know at the time that Price was walking in a group that included White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

Heyman's attorney, Tim DiPiero, explains video evidence shows Heyman did not violate the law.

"Dan was told to stay away from her, meaning Kellyanne Conway, and from the video, you can see he precisely does that – he stays away from her and runs ahead to catch up with Tom Price,” DiPiero points out. “And then, within seconds, he's arrested with no other admonition."

DiPiero adds that while freedom of the press is important, it isn't always respected.

Heyman says he's thankful for the outcome, as well as the outpouring of support he's received.

"I always felt like I would get a fair hearing from the court system, which I'm grateful for, because not every reporter around the world can count on that,” he states. “And I feel like the free press is alive and healthy in this country, in spite of some things that would tend to undermine it."

Public News Service founder Lark Corbeil says she's also appreciative of the help from the legal team and journalism groups that continually fight for First Amendment rights.

"The committed group of people that are helping Dan are part of a larger movement by many, many attorneys and journalists nationwide, who see protection of freedom of the press and our democracy as an obligation of our professions," she states.

As for Heyman, he says he'll continue to ask the tough questions on behalf of those who can't.

"The job of a reporter is to sort through this stuff, and to look out for the interests of people who maybe are being ignored in the legislative process,” Heyman states. “So, I felt like I was really doing my job, and it was unfortunate that I got into trouble for doing that."

Not long after Heyman's arrest, a reporter for the Guardian was body-slammed by a congressman from Montana, and a journalist was pinned against a wall by security guards at an FCC news conference.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - WV