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Reporter arrested while questioning Tom Price


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — It was a tough question that got him trouble, said a reporter who was arrested Tuesday while covering U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the Capitol in Charleston.

Dan Heyman, left, and his attorney Tim DiPiero speak to reporters Tuesday night after Heyman was arrested for disrupting functions during a visit by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at the Capitol in Charleston. Heyman said he was asking a question to which Price would not answer or acknowledge.
(Submitted photo)

Dan Heyman, 54, of Charleston, a producer with the Public News Service, was charged in a complaint by the West Virginia State Police under West Virginia Code 61-6-19 which says anyone who disrupts the orderly and peaceful process of any department, division, agency or branch of state government or its political divisions is guilty of a misdemeanor.

The incident occurred on Tuesday during a visit by Kellyanne Conway, a special counsel to the president of the United States, and Price, who were in Charleston to discuss the opioid epidemic with West Virginia lawmakers.

The complaint from Sgt. Travas S. Bennett of the Capitol Police said Heyman was “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 defendant was causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price,” the complaint said. “This officer and Sgt. Bennett were able to detain the defendant before he tried aggressively to breach the security of the Secret Service.”

Heyman told The Parkersburg News and Sentinel he never attempted to breach security and was leaning to get his recording device in proximity to record Price.

“I was trying to get my phone close enough to hear the answers,” Heyman said.

Heyman said he asked Price four times about whether domestic violence would be a pre-existing condition in the health care bill passed by the House of Representatives, without getting a response or a “no comment.”

“He just didn’t reply,” Heyman said.

Heyman said he was cleared upon entry into the Capitol by going through the metal detectors, so officials should have known he wasn’t carrying a weapon, and that he had an ID tag. Heyman said he wasn’t aware of Secret Service agents in the entourage until the arrest.

Price had a right to protection, but Heyman believes it was his question that was the issue.

“They don’t have the right to protect him from uncomfortable questions,” he said.

Heyman, represented by attorney Tim DiPiero, was released Tuesday night on $5,000 bond. DiPiero said he generally doesn’t comment on criminal cases, but this is a “bizarre case” with someone charged for talking too loud.

DiPiero Wednesday said it’s ridiculous that a reporter asks a question, is arrested and ends up getting fingerprinted and wearing an orange suit.

“That’s just crazy,” DiPiero said. “That’s just over the top.”

The West Virginia Civil Liberties Union held a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday night.

Jamie Lynn Crofts, legal director of the Civil Liberties Union, said on its Facebook site, “They have shown us every day since Donald Trump took office that they don’t care about the First Amendment, or the free press. Today was just another example of that. It’s horrifying.”

The story in the Public News Service said Valerie Woody, an outreach coordinator with the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said Price and the entourage were moving quickly through a hallway and Heyman was scurrying after them.

“I saw nothing in his behavior, I heard nothing that indicated any kind of aggressive behavior or anything like that,” the news service quoted Woody. “Just simple, you know, trying to get somebody’s attention and ask them a question. It seems to me there was no violation of anyone’s space, or physicality, other than the arrest itself.”

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