VIRGINIA — The photographs seized on Friday from the newsroom ofJames Madison University’s student newspaper, The Breeze, by theRockingham Commonwealth’s Attorney are being held pending furthernegotiations.
Breeze Editor-in-Chief Katie Thisdell said the photographs had notyet been used in any investigation of the “Springfest” riots thatoccurred on April 10.
“They have not used [the disc] for any investigations yet, so theagreement that we came up with yesterday, between all the involved parties, wasthat a trusted third party would hold onto the disc for right now so that thatour negotiations can continue,” Thisdell said.
The photographs were seized during the execution of a search warrant onFriday, April 16, and include both published and unpublished photographs fromthe riot. When the photographs were first requested, Thisdell informed theCommonwealth’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 tofind Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst and about 10 police officers with asearch warrant, threatening to take all cameras, computers and documents unlessstudents released the photographs they sought.
News of this incident has traveled quickly, garnering outcry from manymajor organizations.The Society of Professional Journalists has sent a letterto Garst expressing its discontent with her actions. The letter also demandsthat her office “return ALL of the materials, as well as copies, takenduring your raid and issue an apology to the student newspaper, its staff andthe University community.”
Another letter was sent to Garst by Gwen Woolf, President of the VirginiaPress Women, saying she was “dumbfounded” upon hearing what hadhappened, referring to Friday’s incident as a “Gestapo-likeraid.”
As of press time, Thisdell said no time had been set for furthernegotiations.