Photos seized by police at JMU held pending negotiations
VIRGINIA -- The photographs seized on Friday from the newsroom of James Madison University's student newspaper, The Breeze, by the Rockingham Commonwealth's Attorney are being held pending further negotiations.
Breeze Editor-in-Chief Katie Thisdell said the photographs had not yet been used in any investigation of the "Springfest" riots that occurred on April 10.
"They have not used [the disc] for any investigations yet, so the agreement that we came up with yesterday, between all the involved parties, was that a trusted third party would hold onto the disc for right now so that that our negotiations can continue," Thisdell said.
The photographs were seized during the execution of a search warrant on Friday, April 16, and include both published and unpublished photographs from the riot. When the photographs were first requested, Thisdell informed the Commonwealth's Attorney's office that it is the Breeze's
policy to release only photos already published on its Web site.
Then on Friday morning, Thisdell arrived at the Breeze's office to find Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst and about 10 police officers with a search warrant, threatening to take all cameras, computers and documents unless students released the photographs they sought.
News of this incident has traveled quickly, garnering outcry from many major organizations. The Society of Professional Journalists has sent a letter to Garst expressing its discontent with her actions. The letter also demands that her office "return ALL of the materials, as well as copies, taken during your raid and issue an apology to the student newspaper, its staff and the University community."
Another letter was sent to Garst by Gwen Woolf, President of the Virginia Press Women, saying she was "dumbfounded" upon hearing what had happened, referring to Friday's incident as a "Gestapo-like raid."
As of press time, Thisdell said no time had been set for further negotiations.
James Madison University, news, The Breeze, Virginia
Police seize riot photos from JMU Breeze's newsroom News Flash, 4/16/2010