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West Virginia reporter Daniel Heyman jailed after questioning Health Secretary Tom Price

15 May 2017

"My colleague Dan Heyman @PNS_WV was arrested today for trying to ask Tom Price questions about the Republican health-care bill", Tegethoff tweeted.

The reporter, Dan Heyman was covering a protest at the state Capitol building where he followed Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway through the building asking a question about whether or not domestic abuse was a pre-existing condition.

Lark Corbeil, the chief executive and founder of Public News Service, said Heyman's arrest took the organization "very much by surprise", The Washington Post reported. "I am supposed to go and find out if somebody is going to be affected by this health care law".

Heyman said it's the first time he's ever been arrested, especially just for asking a question.

"What I did was, I was holding the phone out like this and I was trying to get as close to Secretary Price as possible, for obvious reasons", Heyman said. He said he was recording audio on his cellphone and reached it past Price's staffers.

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Price says police at West Virginia's Capitol "did what they felt was appropriate" in arresting a journalist.

According to the official police complaint, Heyman was removed from the area a few times for "aggressively breaching" the Secret Service convoy surrounding the two. "The criminal complaint says that I was trying to breach the barrier of the secret service agents, but I never tried to breach anybody".

"No police officer told me 'you're in the wrong place, '" he said.

If convicted for the misdemeanor, Heyman faces being charged with a fine of up to $100, spending six months in jail, or both.

The American Civil Liberties Union's West Virginia chapter said in a statement that Heyman's arrest "is a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press. It's horrifying", said ACLU-West Virginia legal director Jamie Lynn Crofts. The clip's caption claims he was arrested for "causing a disturbance by yelling [questions]". "He didn't say anything", Heyman said later in a news conference.

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"We just don't understand why he got arrested it just seems way over the top".

Price did not answer Heyman.

"It was his physical action and not that he was asking questions, that crossed the line", said Lawrence Messina, who was a statehouse reporter for the Associated Press before joining West Virginia's department of military affairs and public safety.

Heyman's attorney Tim DePiero called the arrest a "highly unusual case". It called for the criminal charges to be dropped. "At some point, I was pulled aside by the capitol police", he said.

They add that Freedom of Speech "rights are not confined to a press conference". Charge up your flashlights gang, because this won't be the last dark day.

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Advocates for civil liberties and journalists' rights denounced the arrest and said Heyman was punished for doing his constitutionally protected job. And for that, he was arrested. the First Amendment will prevail.

West Virginia reporter Daniel Heyman jailed after questioning Health Secretary Tom Price