Virginia AG: No First Amendment concern in police raid of JMU Breeze newsroom

After being shown support from local and national news outlets in the form of extensive coverage and editorials, The Breeze newspaper at James Madison University learned Friday that it does not have the support of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

The Breeze website quotes Cuccinelli’s statement, saying he fully supports Rockingham Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst’s actions on April 16, when she, along with several Harrisonburg Police officers, executed a search warrant in the newsroom of the Breeze.

“I support any and all legal means to gather information to build a case against people who allegedly harmed or intended to harm law enforcement officers,” Cuccinelli said, according to the Breeze website.

The search warrant was for pictures the Breeze had of a recent riot near the JMU campus. Breeze Editor-in-Chief Katie Thisdell had previously refused to release unpublished pictures to the authorities, as per the paper’s policy. Thisdell burned CDs of the photos for the authorities after she said they threatened to impound all of the newsroom’s computers and cameras unless she complied.

The CDs containing the photographs have not yet been used in any investigation and have been returned to and are being held by Roger Soenksen, the Breeze’s legal adviser and a professor of media arts and design, according to the Breeze website.

This is not the first time Cuccinelli has taken a controversial stance involving higher education. In March he wrote a letter “advising public universities to retreat from their policies against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” according to The Washington Post. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell later said he would not allow any state agencies or state schools to allow discrimination.