The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment IV to the Constitution of the United States
A young man was robbed on Tuesday night inside a hospital while federal security guards watched. The victim was surrounded by seven men and women, and most of them had guns. The thieves refused to let the young man leave a public meeting he was attending and forced him to hand over valuable and irreplaceable property. Three days after the incident, no charges have been filed, nobody has been arrested and the property is still in the hands of the perpetrators. This occurred despite the fact that the victim and federal authorities know exactly who committed this heinous crime.
This is a true story. It happened to David Schultz, a 26-year-old graduate of the University of Arizona.
What makes this story truly unbelievable – and very scary – is the fact that the mastermind of this attack is a federal employee, Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was aided by at least two other employees of the V.A. and four armed security guards.
I call the incident an “attack” because it was just that. An attack on the First Amendment, an attack on veterans and an attack on the public’s right to know how their government is treating wounded vets.
Schultz is a reporter with Public Radio station WAMU. Last Tuesday night, he was covering a public event at the V.A. Hospital in Washington, D.C. While interviewing one of the veterans about the poor treatment he was receiving at the hands of the V.A., Ms. Hairston demanded that Schultz stop recording the interview and hand over his recording equipment.
“She said I wouldn’t be allowed to leave,” Schultz tells WTOP.
So we can, presumably and kidnapping or false imprisonment to illegal seizure, theft and assault charges?
(Bet your bottom dollar on this, I would not be having my lawyer trying to get my property back as WAMU is trying to do. I would have immediately gone to the local police and filed an information and forced the police to arrest Ms. Hairston.)
Theft by threat of force and refusing to allow someone to leave under threat of violence is not acceptable behavior by a Federal employee. What happened at that hospital is not a civil matter. It is a criminal matter and should be dealt with accordingly.
UPDATE: Via WaPo, the flash card has been returned without conditions. The VA at first attempted to get the reporter to sign a release form, then backed down.
Jim Asendio, news director at the station, said the sound card from the reporter’s digital recorder was due to be turned over to him late last night, with no conditions. VA officials initially said they would return the card only if the reporter, David Schultz, signed a consent form that should have been signed before he conducted any interviews.
The station contended that confiscating the device violated Schultz’s First Amendment right to gather news. The department claimed that Schultz did not identify himself or follow proper procedures for interviewing VA patients while at the event.
In a statement released last night, VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the department “regrets the incident” and “appreciates the press’s interest in covering the VA” but also must “make every effort to protect the privacy of our patients.”
Funny what a little sunlight will do. This does not remedy the illegal actions, however.