Newspaper publisher argues the 'penalty does not fit the crime' after judge jails editor over tape recorder

Newspaper publisher argues the 'penalty does not fit the crime' after judge jails editor over tape recorder
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Wikimedia Commons

In June, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Stephan Futrell sentenced Gavin Stone, news editor of Richmond County Daily Journal, to five days in jail for using a tape recorder in his courtroom without permission. And Journal Publisher Brian Bloom, according to the Associated Press, is criticizing the judge's sentence as excessive.

AP reporter Bryan Anderson quotes Bloom as saying, "The penalty does not fit the crime. Let's put this in perspective: You stop a murder trial not once, but twice, because a guy had a tape recorder sitting next to him on a bench at a courtroom. Let's put our priorities in place here."

In the North Carolina Superior Court, there is no official policy against allowing electronic media in courtrooms. But individual judges such as Futrell have the option of deciding whether or not they want to allow them. Futrell opted to prohibit tape recorders in his courtroom, and Bloom acknowledges that reporters should honor that prohibition but believes that Futrell went overboard with the five-day sentence he gave Stone — who was released from jail after a day but may go back.

Anderson explains, "Staff writer Matthew Sasser, who has worked at the paper only since January, brought the recorder into the courtroom on June 21 and 22 after being screened through courthouse security, Bloom said. Stone, who in January 2020 received a letter from a different judge reprimanding him for taking a photo inside a courtroom, was aware cell phones were prohibited and had been notified at the time that he wasn't allowed to bring a 'cell phone, camera or any other recording device into the courthouse' unless he had a judge's permission."

The AP reporter adds, "Having remembered only the prohibition on cell phones, Stone told Sasser that an audio recorder was fine. Sasser used the device during a recess to interview a source in the courtroom. When Futrell learned Sasser had the recorder, he directed the reporter to remove it from his courtroom. Sasser went back to the newsroom. A bailiff called him to return to court to speak with the judge, and Stone accompanied him back."

In addition to sentencing Stone to five days in jail, Futrell fined Sasser $500.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}
@2022 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by