Complaints filed by Okla. student reporter, shop owner over confrontation

OKLAHOMA—- A University of Oklahoma student journalist has filed acomplaint and is considering pressing charges against the owner of a liquorstore who allegedly attacked her while she was interviewing him at the store. The store owner, in turn, filed two complaints against the journalist fortrespassing and disturbing the peace for refusing to leave the store when asked.Journalist Kendal Kelly filed a complaint Oct. 16 with the city ofNorman after Rob Gowens, owner of Hob Nob Rob’s Liquor Store, allegedly tried toforcefully take her notebook during an interview and then grabbed her when shewould not give it to him, she said. Kelly said she went to the store to giveGowens a chance to respond to an allegation that he was illegally distributingalcohol at OU football games.According to the city of Norman, Gowenssaid in his complaints that he preferred to settle the dispute in mediation, butKelly said this week that mediation is out of the question and that she willpress criminal charges. City officials are reviewing thecomplaints.Kelly said she began investigating Hob Nob Rob’s Liquor Storeafter sources indicated the store was delivering alcohol to stadiumsuite-holders during football games. According to the Oklahoma AlcoholicBeverage Laws Enforcement Commission, it is illegal for a retail store such asHob Nob Rob’s to deliver alcohol to suites without a cateringlicense.Kelly said Gowens had admitted to selling alcohol to onesuite-owner when she interviewed him one month ago, but when she called back toconfirm, Gowens retracted the statement and would not comment any further. But before publishing the story that included the allegation against HobNob Rob’s, Kelly went to give Gowens one more chance to explain his side of thestory.”I thought maybe he had a separate caterer deliver the alcohol,which would make it legal,” Kelly said. According to Kelly and RyanChittum, a Wall Street Journal reporter and former OU student whoaccompanied Kelly to Hob Nob Rob’s, the effort backfired.When the tworeporters entered the store and told Gowens their purpose, Gowens yelled atChittum to “get out of my store,” Kelly said. Chittum left and Kelly thenexplained that she would publish the story about the liquor store’s allegedillegal alcohol distribution if Gowens could not provide alternative evidence,Kelly said.Gowens then shouted, “no you’re not” and lunged at Kelly totake her notebook, she said. Chittum said he came back into the store twominutes later to find Kelly crying and Gowens threatening to call the police. The two reporters left the store and both sides filed complaints with thecity.Kelly said she was not injured but felt angry and frightened afterthe altercation.Kelly published a story the next day in the student-runOklahoma Daily quoting school officials and suite-holders as saying HobNob Rob’s provided alcohol to suite-holders at football games. Thestory, as well as the allegations of trespass and assault, have sparked a debateabout what really happened that night.Posts made by anonymous readers onthe newspaper’s online message board have said that Kelly “badgered” Gowens andthat she refused to leave the store when he asked. At least one of theanonymous posters claimed to have witnessed the incident.”I was witnessto this so-called interview, and I feel like the assault charges should havebeen leveled at the reporter, not Rob,” one anonymous poster wrote. “Iwas informed from other witnesses inside Hob Nob Rob’s that Kendal had calledseveral times requesting interviews and that she was told no comment on morethan three occasions,” wrote another anonymous poster. “No meansno.”But others supported Kelly.Chittum, who is a former reporterfor the Oklahoma Daily, said Kelly’s visit to the store was justified.”She did exactly what she needed to do, and I’m proud of her,” Chittumsaid. “This is a terrible thing to happen to a student journalist.” TheOklahoma Daily’s faculty adviser, Jack Willis, said Kelly followed properprocedure.”As far as I know, she did everything correctly, and this guywent off on her,” Willis said.Following Kelly’s Oct. 17 story, schoolofficials said they would no longer forward suite-holder’s alcohol orders to HobNob Rob’s as they had since 1995.”We no longer want to be the go-betweenfor suite-holders’ alcohol orders,” said Kenny Mossman, director of OU athleticmedia relations.The Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws EnforcementCommission is also investigating Hob Nob Rob’s for illegal alcohol distribution.