In a day of truly cinematic developments from the executive branch, one nearly slipped by. Journalist Dan Heyman, a producer for Public News Service, approached Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and his colleague Kellyanne Conway at the capitol building in West Virginia to ask them a question about the American Health Care Act. A few minutes later, he was arrested.
Preliminary eye-witness reports suggest that capitol police were unaware Heyman was a member of the press. He was reportedly detained after getting too close to Price and Conway. Heyman was charged with “willful destruction of state government processes” by the capitol police and held in a regional jail for several hours. He was released on $5,000 bond.
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ACLU-WV legal director Jamie Lynn Crofts addressed reporters on the steps of the West Virginia capitol building around 8:45pm. “Our First Amendment rights are under attack every day, particularly from the Trump administration. And it’s not surprising to me that an incident like this would happen when a reporter tried to ask a question of a member of the Trump administration,” Crofts said. “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.”
Upon his release around10:30pm, Heyman and his lawyer Tim DiPiero spoke to reporters. “I think it’s dreadful. This is my job!” Heyman said.
In a statement to Esquire.com, Heyman’s editor Lark Corbeil said:
“Dan was simply exercising his rights as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a concern that there seems to be an antipathy towards the press. An arrest for a reporter doing his job is clearly unnecessary.”
Secretary Price has not returned our request for comment.